Robots are taking over the world. Well, maybe not completely, but they are doing a good job of it, according to a newspaper article I read recently.
There are robots in bars in Japan serving cocktails (I wonder if they shake or stir…?) one robot filling prescriptions in a hospital pharmacy in California (really…?) and now, scientists from the University of Columbia have developed a robotic iron that not only does the ironing for you, but doesn’t leave any creases (but what if want a crease…?).
I wonder what my grandmother would have made of this news?
Granny and laundry go hand in hand when I think about Irene’s Times Past challenge which she hopes ‘will give us social insights into the way the world has changed between not only generations but also between geographical location’.
For February’s prompt, Irene asks:
Prompt No 2. First memories of wash day. Was it a ritual in your house. Did you have to play a part. What kind of washing machine did you have? Was it the sole province of the women of the household? What was the style of your clothes line? Any memories of doing the laundry you care to share. I am sure that we are going to find some differences both geographically and generational with this one. Help me prove myself right or show that I am wrong by joining in.
Writing as a tail-end baby boomer growing up in a village in Surrey, England in the 1960’s and Suffolk in the 70’s, my ‘wash day’ memories take me further north to a place I visited many times as a child…
Granny loved ironing so much (or so I believed), that I nicknamed her Mrs Tiggy-Winkle (the ironing-obsessed hedgehog from the Beatrix Potter stories). But Granny didn’t just have the latest, all singing, all dancing iron; she was also the proud owner of an ironing press.
Allowed to ‘play’ with it as a girl – supervised of course – I remember clearly the hiss of floral-scented steam as I released the handle to lift the top, only to reveal the perfectly pressed and starched article inside once the steam cleared. It was like magic.
My grandparents lived in a large Victorian style house in Hale, Cheshire. With its polished, wood floor of the large, open hallway, bay windows and window seats, a huge attic and endless nooks and crannies (not forgetting the beautiful summerhouse at the end of the garden), it called out for adventure. There was even a cellar, which is where Granny did her laundry.
If doing the laundry was drudgery for her, she didn’t show it. She taught me how to take each item of clothing out of the washing tub (no automatic washing machine for Granny until a decade or so later…) and feed it through a wooden wringer. I loved turning the handle as water squeezed out from one end into a bucket below as the flat, much drier, clothing appeared through the middle and out the other end.
Next, I helped her hang the washing with wooden pegs on the long line outside, or if raining, on an airer in the cellar. By the 70s, she was the only one I knew who had an electric dryer, but she used it rarely since it was expensive to run. She always preferred to iron, and she ironed everything, including tea-towels and knickers.
There was no particular wash day in my house, but it was women’s work for both my grandmother and mother, and one of my chores growing up was the dreaded ironing (not taking after Granny in that department).
We had a rotary washing line at home which always reminded me of an upside down umbrella as a child. When I first visited California in the late 70s, I was amazed to learn that hardly anyone hung their washing outside. Everyone had matching (and huge to me) ‘washer and dryer’ sets, something I had never heard of. The ‘washers’ were top loading, not unlike the ones I had seen only at launderettes in England, since our washing machines were/are front loading.
Granny continued to enjoy ironing all her life, which is just as well as she always seemed to have a massive pile to get through. Baffled by this, one-day I asked her about it, since by then she lived alone. “Most of it’s for Frank, dear,” she laughed. “I do all his ironing. He’s too old to manage it himself now.” She was pushing eighty herself, and Frank, as it turned out, was younger than she.
In fact, most of the ironing belonged to friends and neighbours who could no longer manage it. She also disappeared at mealtimes with plates of food covered with foil for the ‘old folks’ who lived around the corner or in the flat above hers. She was that kind of woman, one who inspires me still.
Although she would have been intrigued by the robot iron, I know without a doubt that she would never have given up ironing. Scientific or not, nobody could press a trouser crease like my Granny.