Monday, 1 November 2010

Monday's washing day...

'Today's Monday, today's Monday
Monday's washing day
Is ev'rybody happy?
You bet your life we are.'

I remember singing that song as I turned the handle of the mangle for my gran. 'Watch your fingers' she would say. She washed in a gas boiler in the kitchen, then we’d put the clothes through the mangle in the front hall on winter’s days, catching the drops of water in an old tin bucket.

In the summer we mangled 'out the back' in the open air the smell of lilac everywhere. That’s the mangle in the picture, but by the time I was turning its light green handle we’d replace the dolly and barrel with the boiler.

Monday was wash day; the lines full of sheets and shirts, socks and hankies, towels and pudding cloths. Yes, pudding cloths; my gran made a great spotted dick. I remember the washboard that she kept by the pottery sink, and the pink scrubbing soap for collars, and the smell of bleach, the feel of starch – I remember that my Mum had our first twin tub... so modern after the round, enamel, gas boiler in the kitchen.

I can smell wash day even now – so clean, so fresh. I can feel the mangle handle in my hands, hear its clickety-clack as it turns, taste the starch in the air, see the clothes pass out of the rollers and concertina into the tin bath below.

When I bought my house in Manchester it came with the coal fired brick built boiler and the cast iron boiling pot in the cellar. There were lots of memories of the past remaining in the house - the cold slab for meat and the air raid shelter also in the cellar, gas-lights in the bedrooms, servant bells in the hall - all gone now. I wish I’d kept them as a reminder of simpler times.

I'm glad to have grown up with mangles, black and white TV, only 2 TV channels, seasonal veg, spotted dick, open fires (and only open fires not as well as), frost inside the windows in winter, real coal, the home service - sometimes it's all a bit too easy today… which is probably why I don't really like using the dishwasher, prefer radio to TV, and can’t work out the programs on the washing machine.

I wonder what today’s kids will remember fondly in the future – Flat screen not hologram, hi definition not 3D, laptops not hand-held, switches not voice activation – who knows?

'Watch your fingers', Gran would say. I'd happily give a finger or two to have a just a couple more hours turning that mangle for her once more - she had all the answers, gave the best advice, and it was all so much simpler back then.

You know, next time I pass a mangle covered in flower pots I might nick it and start doing the washing by hand.

'Is ev'rybody happy?'


  1. That was a wonderful description AKH - you certainly can write and tell a story.

  2. I remember green fairy soap for collars and cuffs (There's another phrase that's changed meaning with the passage of time) and I remember the taste when I didn't mind my fingers! k

  3. My mum had a boiler in cream enamel with a mangle attached. It had to be positioned next to the Belfast sink. I remember we later bought a free-standing, top loading spin drier: probably on the cutting edge at the time. We also had a washboard. I think it was made of molded glass (which seems a bit odd) with a wooden frame. You are right about Monday being the washing day- just as Friday was always fish day. The clothes prop doubled up as a hurdle, a lance & many other playthings. I once broke it in half. My dad fixed it but it lost its original sliding mechanism. It's amazing what memories are stirred by your blog.
    In 40 or 50 years, middle aged chaps & ladies will perhaps wax lyrical about the archaic, noisy & smelly modes of transport in which their parents used to trundle around.

  4. Tricia Kitt commented on Facebook ‎....and don't get me started on mangles....

  5. Lloydy - you just made me remember that we had a boiler with an attached mangle, it was electric, a real improvement on the hand mangle.

  6. I posted this with my blog on facebook -

    By the way, doing the washing is far too easy in this day and age. When 'someone' complains about having to put ALL my shirts in the AUTOMATIC washing machine I often think - 'you've never used a mangle have you.'


    Tricia Kitt:
    It's the removal of expensive cufflinks in scenario 1; unrolling sleeves and finding chemical/grass/blood stains in scenario 2 (the CSI version); much spraying with magic solutions and scrutinising of labels - not that simple m'man, or I would INSIST Mart did laundry (at risk of destroying average 1 expensive handwash only item per week)
    ‎....and don't get me started on mangles....

    Alice Coltman:
    If its that EASY Andy, then why don't you just do it yourself???????? lol!