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The smug washing line

It’s not mine. And shame on me for writing it, but, it’s the neighbours. Every morning, no matter what time I get up, and I admit I am not the earliest of risers, when I get down to the kitchen there it is, full of washing, taunting me and my lazy ways.

It rained heavily overnight, it kept me awake for a while. The forecast is not good. How come then, next door have managed to find a brief window of general weather loveliness for their clothes to dance on the line. And all the while I have been dozing, or reading in bed, thinking that laundry was off the menu today.

It never used to be this way. I had my one single clothesline strung between the house and green garden shed: one end too high for me to access, the other overgrown by the butterfly bush. They had a triangular rotary line, round the corner and hidden from my view. Their laundry habits, were and remain, none of my business. However, this year they put up a single wire, like mine, running in full view of my kitchen window. It’s not my business, but it’s under my nose.

I am the kind of person who hangs out washing for it to get more wet in the rain. I am the kind of person that returns from a week’s holiday to find that I have left the washing on the line. I am the kind of person who has piles of laundry in the dining room. I don’t do envy, but still.

Here’s the biggest mystery though. The neighbour’s line is full every day, with at least one load, on a sunny day: two or more. And I swear I never see them wear half the clothes on the line. The black and white number rubbing my nose in it this morning – the lady of the house is always well turned out, but not in that outfit. Who is wearing all these clothes?

And here’s my final thing – I never hang underwear on the line. It dries discreetly elsewhere. There are no such sensibilities next door: the line is regularly used as an exhibition space for bras and underpants. I wonder if my own aversion comes from a country upbringing, where a young miscreant was once cautioned for shooting knickers off washing lines in the village for the sake of entertainment and target practice. Whatever.

Here’s my dining room in a recent incarnation. Nothing smug here, I hope. Taken to send to a friend who was asking my advice about criteria for tidiness – this was to illustrate I was definitely the wrong person to ask…

The washing line visible through the door is the other next door neighbour’s and there’s nothing smug about their line. They didn’t used to use pegs. I use pegs: three per two items of washing, no gaps. The smug line has two pegs per item and a space between. I suppose some would say I have low standards. They might be right.

P.S. It’s started chucking it down and the washing next door has been taken in. I, on the other hand, have some to hang out.

The Washing

How long does it take in the modern age of labour-saving devices to get a load of washing done?

Well, if you only count the time the clothes clobber spends in the machine, it might be less than an hour, or two, or six hours if you overload it and the machine goes on strike. Or somewhere in between if your machine, like mine, only chooses to work with two of the twenty settings available to it and you don’t notice that although it’s glowing ON in red, it’s doing bugger all…

So that’s the technical bit – anywhere between an hour and a day.

And then comes the drying. Well that’s a bit more like: how long’s your washing line? I won’t have a tumble dryer. No room to house one, they eat electricity, no money to buy one and a strong suspicion that even if I was given one for free and put in the shed I would become instantly addicted to the non-creased clothes it produced.

So for the drying process, I am a Luddite. On the line, or on the radiator. I hate the latter, it turns the house into Widow Twankee’s gaff and if the radiators aren’t on, which they mainly aren’t (see eats electricity (gas actually)) it’s a bit useless. The line’s ok during a bright breezy day, but on these days of mixed weather and early darkening afternoons you just forget there’s anything out there.

So the load of washing I put in the machine on Tuesday, and forgot, and hung out yesterday and forgot, remains on the line today, Thursday. It’s been raining here so it’s probably still wet. I don’t mind too much, it will dry one day. There’s no rush. In the meantime just think of all the energy I’m saving by sewing myself into a set of clothes for the winter.

Alain Speed: Washing Line, oil on canvas 240w x 170h 2011

The next post will seek to explain why I only have three clothes pegs…


Due to the endless rain in the South East, Goodwood have been forced to abandon today’s racing – waterlogged track.

Due to the endless rain in the South East, Makemeadiva has been forced to abandon her washing on the line for the second day in a row – experience tells me it will dry out one day…

And, just as I plan a spot of racing in Chepstow, they are forced to give up their last two flat cards to Bath (how apt).  The calamity is due to worms.  The wrong kind of worms.  I may be forced to go to Hereford instead which is the wrong kind of racing.

Midday: the right kind of racing in the wrong kind of weather for washing