Jayne Dawson: Washing lines are over? You have to be kidding me

WIND POWER: Clothes flapping, old-style, in the breeze.
WIND POWER: Clothes flapping, old-style, in the breeze.
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Once again I find myself at the wrong end of a massive cultural shift. This time it’s washing lines. They’re totally over, we are hearing. They’re symbols of a different age, we are hearing.

They have gone the way of dinosaurs, outside toilets and women who wore a good pinny over their work pinny, we are hearing.

Well pity nobody told me.

Because I am that one person in the UK who, far from abandoning her washing line, has recently re-equipped it. Got it all dandy, dressed-up and ready to go.

I have just bought myself two dozen new pegs and a prop. How did I know I was being weird?

Here’s how it happened: one day quite recently I looked at our electricity bill, the tumble drier and the abandoned washing line, and remembered there was a connection.

I had known about this connection, years ago, but somehow I had forgotten.

When I first introduced a tumble dryer into my home, I feared it for the wild, fuel-guzzling beast it was. I approached it warily and switched it on rarely, for it was then a foreign thing to me.

My early married years were full of washing lines, my childhood was saturated with washing lines. I knew all about washing line etiquette which was, basically, that if it rained while your neighbour was out, you brought her washing in as well. Or else.

Also, at the first clanging sound of a dustcart you dropped everything and rushed outside – whatever you were or were not wearing – to snatch your clean bits and pieces from the jaws of danger and a future in a Leeds landfill site.

On the other hand, if any other large vehicle got involved in a face-off with your washing line, you ignored it, and its gesticulating driver. That was their fault for coming on the back street. If they were nice about it – and only if they were nice about it – you might hitch the prop a bit higher for them. But not always.

This was my life. I attempted tentative 1970s-style sunbathing under a whipping washing line, I dodged washing lines as I made my way up the path, dressed in my going-out outfit. I once arrived on a date with half my make-up missing after a sheet snapped back in a vicious wind and cleansed my skin in a way no modern face wipe has ever achieved. Me and washing lines knew each other very well.

But somewhere in the busy, frantic years, I abandoned them. First I got one of those spider’s-web-on-a-stick things. A rotary dryer I believe they were called.

In the 1980s we believed them to be so much more classy than an old line strung between two poles. Really, in the early 1980s nothing said aspirational like a rotary dryer in your back garden.

I didn’t stick with it though. Next I moved on to the pulley. For those who don’t know, it’s an indoor drying rack at ceiling height and, by the early 1990s, nothing said aspirational like a pulley.

Sometimes in magazines, they were used for drying herbs and decorative strings of hops. In my house it dried towels and underpants rock hard. Truly, you had to punch them quite hard to get them to fold after a session on the pulley.

One day, when the towels refused to crack, I cracked instead. I demanded a tumble dryer – and so my dance with the devil began.

But, as we all do in the end, I am returning to my roots. I wasn’t sure whether it was still possible to buy a prop but Google told me it was. So I did. Now I peg out my washing on my unashamed, old-fashioned line, between deluges of rain.

Apparently I’m cutting a lonely figure, but I’m happy as I peg out my smalls – especially as the dustbin wagon only comes once a fortnight now.

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