The English Patient

The English Patient

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Monday was wash day

Monday was washing/laundry day. It was hard work. On Sunday a huge roast was cooked so there was plenty of left over meat to eat cold or grind up to make a shepards pie. Beef and chicken for cold meat...lamb for a hot meal in the winter.
Nanny was always up early. She wore her old clothes and always a floral pinny. The pinnafore always had pockets for pegs to hang out the clothes. First job strip the sheets from the bed. Sheets were always Egyptian cotton white as snow.They were washed every Monday come hail or shine. We had what was called the a basement. The copper boiler was in the skullery. It was huge and shone brightly in the sunshine. My job was to go to the water pump in the yard and fill up buckets of water. Heavy work. I had long hair....I still have it!!!! It was tied up in plaits or braids so it did not get in the way while I worked.Nanny always put a blue bag or "dolly bag" in the copper.
DOLLY BAGS or BLUE BAGS held a mixture which was like magic. it was a chemical which was in a small muslin bag. It took all the yellow out of the cotton and made the sheets blindingly white. I used to make dolls out of the muslin and sew them up as toys. Putting woolen hair on them and sewing on little faces. Eyes and big mouth with a wide smile. Dolly bags were my friends they all had names...Nanny starched the shirts and collars which were separate then.
I poured the water into the copper to boil. It was an endless task but important no slacking. The skullery filled with smoke. It got into your eyes and it sometimes became so bad you could not see. There was a huge belfast sink and the sheets went into it to be scrubbed on a washboard. Nanny had really strong arms like a builder...she used a scrubbing brush. Her hands were always bright red and chapped from the washing.
When the sheets were clean they went through the "mangle" to get out all excess water. The mangle was 2 big rollers and you fed the sheets between the rollers and the water was squeezed out. Turning the mangle was back breaking work.
Pegging out the washing in the garden was an art. Ladies compared each others whites!!!! It was a matter of pride. The pegs were made of wood. I drew little faces on them. There was an art to careful folding and hanging to catch the breeze. Mrs Warner and Nanny spoke over the fence at pegging out. " Lovely dry out today Aylice". " How is your sister Pegy....sciatica improving?."..." My Ninny got 10 out of 10 for her spelling" Spelling test was Friday. The geese in the garden always came running when we pegged out. I got to feed them.
When the whites were done we started on the colours. Knitted jumpers and cardigans were hand washed.....was there any other kind of washing in those days????? We hung the cardigans and jumpers on pantyhose which we threaded through the sleeves. In those days nothing was wasted.
When clothes were dry Nanny darned. An art which is now rarely seen. She had a wooden mushroom to stretch the fabric. There were always holes in socks. Mine were darned so much the white socks were like rainbows.  Washing took all day. if the clothes dried we bought them in and the ironing started. Often shirts especially cotton were ironed when damp they didn't ever have a crease
Dinner in the evening was cold meat and fries or jacket potatos. Nanny pickled her own onions and red cabbage. Shepards pie was minced lamb with mash on top.Sometimes we has Bubble and Squeak. mash with left over vegetables form the sunday dinner. Cabbage onion carrot greens and mash fried like a corned beef hash. Lovely with pickle. In England it is Bubble and Squeak because it made this noise when fried. Ireland it's called champ and it has scallions in it. Scotland Colcannon. Don't ask me why it's a mystery.
Then monday was bath night. The copper was filled again water boiled then poured into a tin bath. I had a not a real one lol. The bath was in front of the fire and clean pj's hung up from the mantle over the fire. They were so cosy and warm to put on.
Monday night was early night eyeryone exhausted. Country life was hard work. But so rewarding. I guess it was an innocent time.

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