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Joe Bennett says…

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Having fun in the hills!

« on: February 07, 2020, 02:11:51 pm »

from The Press…

I left my laundry out, but at least it was clean

I left my washing on the line while the US Senate was doing something just as dangerous.

By JOE BENNETT | 4:45AM — Wednesday, 05 February 2020

Hanging washing out to dry produces “a rebirth that you just don't get from the tumble-dryer,” Joe Bennett writes.
Hanging washing out to dry produces “a rebirth that you just don't get from the tumble-dryer,” Joe Bennett writes.

FORGIVE ME, MOTHER, for I have sinned. I left my washing on the line — and here I pause to intensify the gasp of disbelief and horror — overnight. And this at a time when the US Senate, touting itself as the world's greatest deliberative body, is about to side with Trump. It would be easy to assume the world is ending.

The rules by which we live are laid down early. For as long as I can remember it's been unthinkable to leave out washing overnight, and since my father was as likely to peg the washing on the line as he was to take up ballet, I presume I got this notion from my mother. But I don't think she ever said it. It was just part of the moral atmosphere of childhood, like the importance of please and thank you or the unmentionability of genitals.

Quite why it was wrong I'm not sure. Was it fear of theft, or a sense that it was slovenly to leave the day's work incomplete, or perhaps a superstitious dread of what the dark might do?

My mother never owned a tumble-dryer so there was little she didn't know about drying clothes. All her life she was alert to the possibility of rain. As the first drops spotted the path she would dash for the backdoor and rip clothes from the line with a speed and dexterity of peg-work that I could only admire. And it went the other way too. In midwinter when the snow lay deep as Wenceslas she would still peg out clothes to catch a fleeting hour of weak sunshine, to get the clothes, if not dried, at least aired. Aired was everything. For clothes or wounds or rooms my mother had unlimited faith in the cleansing quality of air.

There's a confessional element to pegging out clothes. It is good to show the world one's sadly honest undergarments: vast bras and knickers, socks with holes, dispirited, yellowing y-fronts. Here I am, the washing says, take me for all in all.

I peg out a line of shirts all upside-down like a rack of dead beasts at the freezing works, and I wonder at the expanse of them, the great sheets of cloth cut and sewn by deft and tiny Third World hands to house my First World flab.

And then a nor'west breeze gets up and plumps the shirts and sends them streaming out to lee, their desperate empty arms stretched out to grab at airy nothing, their waistbands tugging at their anchor pegs. And as the shirts go dancing on the line like Wordsworth's daffodils, you can't mistake the ritual quality of washing.

We drench our clothes in water to rid them of the earth and then we hang them high for the wind to seize the last sour molecules of self and yesterday and sweated disappointment and give them to the nowhere of the air to leave us free and clean and fresh to start again.

It's a rebirth that you just don't get from the tumble-dryer. It's the self-renewing world in miniature. Every air-dried armful of laundry — even if, as I have just discovered, it's been left out overnight — smells of hope.

And as for Trump, when the States finally rids itself of him and all his hideous lying henchmen, they should strip the White House of its furnishings, strip it down to walls and floorboards only, then fling the doors and windows wide and let the cleansing winds blow through the place, not overnight but for a year.


• Julian “Joe” Bennett is a writer, columnist and retired English school teacher living in Lyttelton, New Zealand. Born in England, Bennett emigrated to New Zealand when he was twenty-nine.

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