Folding the washing today, I couldn’t help but think about how easy it is now. I detest the fuck out of it, but it’s easy. Collecting the dirty washing is the chore for me now. Always a never-ending supply of it. It’s in the bathroom, in the bedrooms, pushed down the back of the lounge suite, screwed up in a corner, left lying around over a chair or outside where the boys took it off. It never ends, and then there’s the missing socks… where the fuck do they go? We wear them, chuck them in the basket, they go into a washing machine, then a dryer maybe or onto the line and then wallah! One of the fuckers is GONE! Kill me now.
I was saying it was easy right? Well it is, now! It wasn’t earlier. I started washing my own clothes at the early age of about ten or eleven. Grade five or six. It was a necessity or I would have been wearing dirty clothes. To understand why I need to explain the where. Remember in an earlier blog I mentioned that we lived in a caravan? This is the where. Although this beast of a van had all the amenities necessary to live in it, it wasn’t what it didn’t have but more about where it was plonked. At this point in time, we lived out-of-town, off a dirt road, on a block of land at the rear of a friends property about 15kms out of Clunes. We were out-of-the-way that’s for sure. Running water we had, but there was no power. All of this is probably sounding irrelevant, but to understand the monumental task it was to wash, you have to get the entire picture.
The caravan as I said was thirty feet long. It hosted a double sink at the front, benches and cupboards all around. There was room for a decent sized fridge and a table that seated 6 easily on a bench seat. About mid way down the van, there was a toilet slash shower to the right and directly to the left, was a set of bunks built-in. The washing machine lived in front of the body length mirror that was stuck to the outside of the bathroom. The bathroom was for a shower only. No number ones or twos in there. Another fuck my life moment right? At the rear of the caravan was the master bedroom, where my parents slept. You could probably swing a cat in there, but I’m sure Smokey would run for Mt Beckworth before that happened. The whole van was brown, a poo brown, wood veneer with green woollen seat cushions. Very trendy for its era I’m sure and Dad loved it. Before we moved to “The Block” as we called it, we lived in the local caravan park. I’ll revisit that in another blog, but for this stories purpose the van had a canvas annex at the caravan park. Here on the block it started as the canvas but was then replaced with a hard shell annex, built onto the side of the van. It even had a hard floor, and wait for it, BLUE carpet. Dad did good to make it as much like a house as possible, it was a roof over our head and we knew no different. I’m glad I knew no different at that point in my life. All the walls were insulated, and lined with guess what… more of the fucking poo brown, wood veneer! The new annex had two rooms. The front room was our lounge. Pride of place was The Pot Belly Stove, sitting right in the middle of the dividing wall. Mum would have it that hot through the winter it would glow red. It earned its place, believe me! The rear room of the annex was our bedroom. We shared a room, all three of us girls. My younger two sisters slept in the metal bunks, and I had a single bed in the corner.
No power… Yup! The joy of it. Anyone that I trusted enough to stay over will remember the “doof doof doof doof doof” of the generator, much like today’s doof doof cars as they drive by. Although the old diesel generator was as far away from the van as possible, you would still hear the constant drill of its grinding, doofing away. It was pretty early on that I had to learn to start it. You had to crank it to start it. Like an old T model car with the crank at the front. How the hell I wasn’t tangled up in and killed or maimed on that thing, I’ll never know. Thank fuck I wasn’t… The thing was covered in grit and diesel, with oil, grease and who knows what else. It stood taller than me with its huge iron wheel hanging off the side.
So, now I can start piecing together the process of washing day on the block. Hang on, the missing element, a washing machine yeah? Let’s say TWIN TUB… Have you ever used a twin tub? Do you even know what a twin tub is? Lets just start with a tub of warm water one side, and then a spinner on the other side. Sounds easy? Killing myself right now. The theory behind it is logical, primitive but logical, the practice of it is an exact science. Too much washing powder and not enough water on the rinse and you’re in a huge world of hurt and fuckedupness!
Lets begin by dragging the machine down the length of half the van to sit it in front of the kitchen sink. Then we sort the washing into manageable loads, whites, colours, blacks, towels, sheets and so on. Make sure those loads aren’t too big, say at most 11 or 12 garments of clothing or 4 to 5 towels… Sheets? Pfft! Not too bad you’re saying? Huh! We only wash once a week! Five people, one of them a fucking GIANT at 6’2″. Are you catching on? Start the generator. Firstly you have to fill the generator up, using a hand pump from a huge fuel drum full of diesel. Begin cranking, faster… faster… faster, then quickly flick the switch that’s a full step away from you before the momentum slows on the wheel and hope to Christ the fucker starts. If you’re not already fucked from the first failed attempt to start, try again… Round.. Round..round..round.. Chug…… Chug….. Chug…. Chug…chug..doof. Doof DOOF flick! YES! Back to the machine. After filling the washing tub, you start with the first load. It’s cycle goes for 9 minutes. Swishing away, it does its thing. It’s the most boring, mundane sound in the world listening to the wash cycle. Whoosh…. Whoosh… Whoosh. Anyways. After that cycle is done, you use the washing stick, yes, we owned a washing stick. Bet you didn’t! Moving on, transferring all the wet clothes into the spinner, you used the plastic guard to press the clothes deep down into the spinner. Make sure it’s level for fucks sake! Slam the lid shut, turn the timer knob. In an instant the spinner takes off, screaming like a jet plane. High pitched, whirring for about 2 minutes. Did I mention make sure the drain hose is hanging into the washtub for the first spin. Miss this step, and you’ll be forever topping up your water. So, at this point, if you haven’t created a suds world war three, move to the next step. Cover the washing tub with its lid. Pull out all the clothes from the spinner, onto the lid. A cut off piece of garden hose hooked up to the kitchen tap served as the rinse hose. Using that to ‘rinse’ the bubbly, foamy, wet clothes with fresh water, you shoved them back evenly into the spinner for the final spin. Got it? Press down the plastic guard and start the jet engine again. Put the drain hose in the kitchen sink for the rinse spin! If you have suds billowing out of the top of the spinner, kick the machine, tell it its a piece of fucking shit and pull all the clothes out of the spinner and use the hose to try to ‘squirt’ the suds away… Okay, so load one is done. Now do that say, another fifteen or twenty times. *insert big cheesy grin.
We used to hang the washing out on the long line. A huge length of wire between two poles, held up in the middle by a prop or two. During the winter, it rained all the time, so the wet clothes went on coat hangers all over the lounge. The term Chinese Laundry rings a bell. This is where the pot belly stove earned its place. In order to dry a weeks worth of clothes for five people, the stove would be cranked so fucking hot the arse should have melted out of it. Coming inside from the cold, the heat would almost knock you off your feet as you came in the door. The heat could even make you feel crook! Then began the dance of turning and rotating all the clothes hanging to ensure they dried quickly. Smaller items were uniformly placed onto clothes horses. The smell of Coldpower drying, the warm, steamy air that filled the lounge meant winter to me. I sometimes get a whiff of it when I step into my laundry with the dryer going and a load of towels are drying. I cringe… and yet I feel comforted, somehow.
So, you’re probably asking yourself, why was she doing her own washing when it was such a monumental task? It’s a really good question, and to be honest I don’t know. I can surmise though. Perhaps I was that fiercely independent that I insisted, and it started as helping out. Mum never loved living out there on the block. It was hard, isolated and if I’m brutally honest, she was probably depressed about it, so I did it for her. I did a LOT for myself and my sisters. I hold no resentment and have gone out of my way to try to not understand why. What does it matter now? Washing day was just one day a week on the block. Usually a Sunday. We spent a lot of days on that block and thank fuck not all of them were Sunday’s!
So, there you have it, washing now is easy, as I sit here watching my eldest son throw a pair of socks in the back door stating that they’re not dirty leave them! I shit it in now. I’ve done the hard yards, the water wrinkled, slimy hands, the mountains of washing from a full week of school and work, getting it all dry then helping fold it all. Needless to say, I love my top loader, and dryer, and little line out the back. But I still fucking hate washing!
Make sure you turn the teapot twice clockwise and once anticlockwise!