Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I have added Mrs Washalot to my list of 'on writing' blogs in the right hand margin. While it's not actually on writing, I think for me it falls into the category of Literary Nonfiction (a mystery genre, which seems to be the thing for people writing theses at Melbourne Uni and for people applying successfully for Australia Council Grants). It's a blog by Janet of Muppinstuff and I don't always remember to visit it, but she seems to update it with surprising regularity considering the apparent narrowness of the topic. The blog is part social commentary, part memoir and personal reflection, partly a critique of pop culture and gender roles and partly just a joyous celebration of a repetitive domestic task. Janet sources a lot of images associated with laundry from old and new advertisments, books and editorials. I've had two I've meant to send her for ages. A terrible picture book that used to be Martin's called Mrs Mopple's Washing Line (where laundry seems to the only chaotic force in Mrs Mopple's otherwise ordered life) and a Beth Norling picture book called The Stone Baby, where hills-hoists form part of a surreal landscape in a story about loss.

Laundry often falls to Martin in this house, but there is something immensely satisfying about hanging out wet washing and bringing it in dry. This is the first house Martin and I have shared that has had a decent washing line. The flat in Brighton (which we lived in in '98 as our first pad together and then returned to in 2004 for six months) didn't have one, so we used clothes horses. The house in Abbott Grove, Clifton Hill had an assortment of random lines strung around the courtyard with insufficient tension. The house in Park St, North Fitzroy...well actually i can't recall the washing line, though I'm sure there was something. In Alfred Crescent it was one of those retractable ones which, when pulled across, took up the best part of the tiny courtyard. We persevered with clothes horses for a long time after Fred was born, but when Fred became mobile she kept pulling all the clothes off. As cloth nappy users we eventually broke down and bought a dryer. The house we owned for a year in Mitcham had a clothesline attached to the raised deck but the deck itself was a hazard to life and limb for most of the time we lived there. The clothesline here is under the garage so unfortunately it doesn't get a lot of direct sunlight. But sitting under the tin roof, the clothes dry fast.

Still I long for a hills-hoist. The icon of the Australian backyard. Play thing of generations of children. Elegant skeletal creature, only half domesticated, dancer in the wild wind.

With two kids, one in cloth nappies at least 75% of the time, we can't afford to miss a day of laundry or it seriously begins to take over the house. We're stuffers rather than folders (Fred's clothes live in big buckets from IKEA and it is our long term goal to store everything we own in big buckets from IKEA) and we don't iron (we have a mini ironing board also from IKEA. We have ironed exactly one thing since Fred was born. Fred thinks it's some kind of wheel-less skateboard, or skipping board, as she calls them). But still its an arduous task. I don't know how people hold down jobs and deal with laundry, especially since most grown ups do iron, fold and hang their clothes.

Anyway, the point of this is, I love this blog. I like what it does. I wish more blogs were like it, so focussed and thoughtful and reflective. I like the Australianness of it, the dryness of Janet's landscape, the billowing white nappies on the old hills-hoist. The blend between personal and private, universal and domestic, the general and the intimately personal is immensely satisfying and successful.

The picture above comes from Melbournes Child, via Mrs Washalot.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:03 PM

    I nearly fell off my chair this morning when I read this. Needless to say, I'm pleased and flattered, especially coming from someone who is such an ace writer of books.

    Funnily enough, it prompted me to think that I could write some very short pieces of fiction for it. Reading the description Literary Nonfiction just had me gagging to do some dialogue.

    I am so impressed that you don't fold. I'm a folder and it drives me nuts, but I couldn't not do it. If you get what I mean. Also very intrigued by your laundry literature.