Kate Livingstone: Wash day blues as water everywhere

Kate Livingston
Kate Livingston

A friend was bemoaning the hassle caused by a broken washing machine.

Apparently it had stopped mid-cycle leaving her to contend with a drum full of sodden clothing – and lots of water.

“It was terrible,” she wailed, “there I was getting ready to go out when it stopped. No noise, no rattle, it just stopped.

“I pushed several buttons, switched it on and off a few times but it wouldn’t restart.

“So I had to cancel my plans, change into some old clothes and prepare to be swamped when I managed to get the machine door open.

“The water was all over the place,” she moaned.

“And before you all tell me to put a sock in it, that was the cause!”

As we all struggled not to laugh, she continued: “When I called out the engineer, he found out that somehow one of those little trainer socks had got caught,

“And it cost me over £100 to get it fixed. And I didn’t have a washing machine for five days until it was fixed. It was awful.”

Her calamity got us all talking about how we take all these kitchen appliances and other gadgets in our house for granted, as well as what ones we couldn’t live without.

While most of us said washing machines, some thought their cooker – but one or two, and I’m not going to name and shame, said that they could manage as long as they still had their microwave and lots of takeaway menus!

But it also got us talking about how our mums and grans managed before they had the plethora of white goods and other things we’ve come to expect in our homes.

My granny never had a fridge, food was kept in a huge larder and many fresh items bought daily from either the shops or the succession of vans which came round the streets. Whatever happened to that service from butchers, bakers and fishmongers?

She also didn’t have a washing machine far less a tumble drier.

Monday was wash day and she would boil up gallons of water to wash clothes and bedding in a giant pan before putting it through a mangle to get rid of the excess water. Then it would hang out on the washing line to blow on a dry day. Wet weather was not so good as steaming washing would be left hanging over every surface.

I remember when my mum and aunts bought her a washing machine and she seemed almost afraid of it. They had it plumbed in but next day when they went to visit found her washing clothes in the sink. Apparently she didn’t want to waste electricity!

Makes you wonder what future generations will consider a necessity.