The washing line

In our first flat the washing line was actually an airer in the corner of the bathroom. It sported tidy newly-married clothes. Secretarial blouses, skirts and tights. Polo shirts and weekend jeans (his mother still laundering the boiler suit). Undies that showed we minded – elastic firmly in place and lace on display. Socks paired uniformly. Linen from the only bed hung on the banister. Shirts draped over radiators. Hand-wash delicates caringly spread on a nifty bath-top drier.

Fast forward a couple of years. The knickers have grown bigger to accommodate developing bump. The bras are impressive – in size if not in drama. Lace ratio has diminished and pant elastic thinned to drooping point. The cheap and cheerful bed clothes have lost vibrancy. Voluminous maternity dresses hog the airer, jostling for space against faded denims and work-a-day clothes. Comfortably lived in.

A semi-detached house – with garden! A family on the cusp of blooming mayhem. Tiny wee socks, smaller than pegs. Doll-sized button-down vests. Blue. White. Pastels. Cradled broderie anglaise. Soft baby cardigans gifted with love and kissed by the breeze as they flutter above the over-long grass of an un-tended garden. Embraced on either side by parental wear that will not require ironing and forgives baby posset. No hand-wash delicates here. Boxer shorts usurping the arse-out Y-fronts. Knickers – practical. Bras unhinge at the front.

And then comes the deluge. Pastels in pink next to bright-comic-strip, little man Ts. Cot sheets and bed sheets and changing mats. Romper suits, romper suits, romper suits. Toddler denims, dungarees, precious blankies. Cot sheets and bed sheets and changing mats. Bibs. Teddy-bears. Messy-play aprons. Sweatshirts emblazoned with diggers, princess duvet covers. The day-glow yellow washing line sags under the strain. Tumble drier is mentioned. Cot sheets and bed sheets and changing mats. Small socks lodged in filters. Potty training pants and jeans, pants and trousers, pants and joggers…

Move to the farm. Muddy coats, dog beds, wet woollen socks. Boiler suits! Bed sheets and bed sheets and pillowcases. School uniform – too soon! Little white collared shirts. Grey trousers, grey jumpers, grey, grey, grey. Airtex tops. Yards of Rayon. Tumble drier. PE kit. Dog towels and bath towels and washable door-mats. Nylon blazers, track suits, hockey skirts, football socks. Jodhpurs, leotards, shorts. Sweaty underarms. Horse hairs. Whipped and snapped by the wind gusting over the fields. Dusted with chaff. Dried and rained on and dried over again.

A single favoured shirt rotates alone in the tumble drier. Essential wear. Specific pants. Modified tartan school-skirts. Rock band Ts, designer labels, rude words. Black denim. Black, black and black. Hoodies, team kit, man-sized shirts. Strap tops, mini-skirts. Pastel trainer bras. Tailored white blouses, elbow-out blazers.  Single socks of unknown ownership. Bed sheets, mascara stained pillowcases. Duvets and towels. Sleeping bags, hockey kit, rugby tops, riding clothes. Dog beds, numnahs, horse rugs. Buggered washing machine. Miniscule strings of lacy thongs. Wafts of over-used aftershave. Smudges of make-up.

Magical washing which hung itself, oddly pegged and abandoned to wilt. Eye-brow raising underwear. Skimpy dresses. Term-sized laundry bags coming home to roost. Unfamiliar clothes. University sweatshirts. Famine or feast for the washing machine. Rarely time for the washing-line. Four sets of bed sheets, three sets of bed sheets, two…

Summer-holiday clothes, bright and blousy. Khaki shorts, linen dresses, golfing trousers. Two sets of boiler suits. Yoga pants, walking coats. Dog beds and jodhpurs. Celebratory wine-splattered tablecloths. Garden cushions. Trainer socks. Winter holiday sun-dresses. Swimming suits, evening wear. M&S reliable pants. Lace on display.

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