It'll have to be another ramble because it's Wednesday...Bernie wrote recently about his washing machine then the ensuing discussion veered off into Star Trek...a programme I had little enough patience with actually. But what I was going to say is when I was working at the children's home we had one day each week when we had to do the laundry. It was a small room in the old stable block with a little garden out the back strung with linen lines.
And the washing machine was a giant contraption of a huge round copper with a fire underneath. If you were short you had to stand on a wooden block to be able to reach inside to fish the clothes out...wooden tongs were used for that...and there was a stout stick for stirring the washing round.
The fire had to be lit first and the copper tank filled with cold water in a tin bucket from the yard tap outside...fine in the summer but hateful when the yard was slippery with frost or it was pouring with rain. Sometimes we'd sneak a bit of rag, smeared with the wax polish used on the corridor floors to help light the fire...otherwise you'd have to rely on twists of newspaper to get it to burn.
Then everything was sorted out into whites and coloureds and basically boiled until it was clean...the nappies came last of course and oddly enough usually came out sparkling white.
There were old tin baths to put the wet and soapy washing in while the copper drained the dirty water away...not sure where it went...but went it did. Then it was traipsing back and forth with more buckets of water for the rinse. That was never heated though...you just stirred everything round a bit.
Back into the tin baths and on to the mangle...everyone was terrified of the mangle after the gardener had regaled us with awful tales of housemaids, back in the old days, getting their fingers trapped and not receiving a jot of sympathy from the Mistress...
Once all the small trousers and frocks and vests and knickers had been mangled they were hung outside on the lines with old fashioned wooden dolly pegs...then the nappies turn to be rinsed and hung out.
Some items were hand-washed in the big double sink...the babies blankets and shawls in particular. We used Lux soap flakes for those, which left a scum on the water and was the devil to rinse away. The boiler was fed copious amounts of soft green soap which was kept in a wooden tub... much later, when I was nursing, we used it for enemas.
Once the laundry room had been swept and the boiler drained and all the washing was out on the lines we had what was left of the day free...because we had to get all the washing in before dark and then fold everything ready for ironing. If it rained or the weather was otherwise inclement, everything hung from racks strung across the ceiling...it'd take a couple of days then to get it all dry enough to be ironed.
The ironing was done by whichever girl was on duty in the evening...the ironing board set up in the corridor outside the babies' room so you could hear if they cried and near enough to the other rooms to know if any small person was out of bed or in distress. There were French windows which opened out onto the Italian garden in which grew jasmine and honeysuckle...in the middle of summer it was never quite dark and it was lovely to pause a while and watch bats flitting past and see a fox go trotting by...while the heavy scent of the flowers drifted through and down the polished corridors...
The Matron had a dog called Honey...she was fairly ancient and couldn't move quickly, but she'd sometimes come and sit with me and watch the nightlife through bleary eyes. The ironing was sorted as it was done into neat piles...most of the bigger children had their own clothes but the smallest toddlers and the babies had a sort of pot luck pile...each pile was left outside the appropriate family room to be put away the following morning.
Once midnight came, Honey would haul herself to her feet on creaky legs and pad off up the stairs to her mistress while the ironing board and iron was put away and you could finally go to bed, once the girl doing nights had appeared.
The scent of jasmine takes me straight back to forty years ago and the smell of warm cottons freshly ironed...