While life stopped a couple of years ago, I’m sure many people discovered small pleasures in simple chores because ordinary everyday activities were no longer there to fill our days. A few minutes hanging the clothes on the line, pegging them out on our lopsided and elderly whirligig clothes line became a small drop of real pleasure. The world was very silent except for the natural sounds of birds and the conversation of invisible neighbours floating over the fence. I would look up at the sky as I transferred the damp washing from the basket to the sagging line, I’d gauge whether those clouds were bringing rain – of if the wind was blowing them away, if the sun would dry the laundry quickly and I’d have to fetch them in before they became too crisp and difficult to iron, or whether the air was damp and the clothes would still be damp when it was time to bring them in. I wanted to say gather the washing from the line, harvest it, but that sounds a little silly!
Now things are mostly back to normal, although I think a lot of us are only now realising the effect those times had on us in the long-term. I’m still hanging out the washing and looking at the sky, judging the wind, calculating the clouds, appreciating the birds who often seem to shout to each other as much as they sing. Now people walk along the path by our house, hidden behind our fence and I catch snatches of their conversation. There’s the sound of the occasional car or van, not so many in our quiet little village, but more than in the stopped times. I used to hear the distant sound of trains, but now they’re lost with other sounds or ordinary life.
As I put out the washing I play little games, silly little games with myself, There are four arms of the rotary dryer, with four sets of washing line strung between its arms. Sometimes I organise the washing by colours, greens and blues in one part, reds and oranges in another, yellow and white in the third and black, brown, grey and sundries in the last. Sometimes I have one section for nightwear and undies, one for shirts and tops, one for bedding and tea-towels, one for trousers and whatever doesn’t belong elsewhere. Silly, I know.
But while I’m putting out the washing, I’m also thinking about writing. Maybe it’s the idea of lines, washing lines and writing lines – in fact I’ve written a few pieces about laundry and imagine publishing a slim volume called ‘Washing Lines’. The line on the dryer is old and fraying, so I play with the idea of ‘When the Line Breaks’ or ‘Broken Lines’ or ‘Line Breaks’ – and then the washing is all hung out and I go back into the house.