Last week, in my blog anniversary post, I described how an entry on hanging out the washing became one of the most popular and successful in Clothes in Books’ history, and how delighted I’d been to find so many people sharing my enjoyment.
And now I’ve found another fan! Sue Hepworth (whom I know through Christine Poulson) has featured on the blog before with her excellent book Plotting for Grown Ups.
This is a different novel (with a title guaranteed to appeal to those who know their films..) and is published by Snowbooks and available at amazon in all formats.
I would love to have found the Kandinsky painting mentioned below, but couldn’t turn it up – perhaps Sue can provide more info…. The picture below is from the Dutch National Archives and shows washing-day in a town called Volendam.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONAL POINT: Earlier in January I did an entry on making an acrostic of my name based on the initial letters of books read during the year, and suggested others might do the same. A reader was complaining that the Z in his name was a stumbling block – think how handy this book would be for all of you with Z names.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONAL POINT 2: For nostalgia’s sake, I found a picture of those sandals that everyone of Sue’s and my age had when we went to school.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONAL POINT 3: Sue has definite form here – in her novel But I Told You Last Year That I Love You there is a hilarious scene where a character tries to wash a large duvet in a bathtub, and then comes to grief when he is trying to hang the now huge, heavy, sodden piece of bedding outside…. ‘Fran feared for the trees to which the [washing] line was tied. It was a miracle they weren’t uprooted.’
extract from: Zuzu’s Petals, by Sue Hepworth
I took the wet clothes outside to hang them on the line. A breeze was blowing little clouds across a bright sky. The children at Nether Green School were whooping and calling in the playground, and it took me back to when Megan and I were at primary school. Ma would always take us to buy new sandals in the Easter holidays. The sandals would be Start-rite with patterns cut out of the leather, and with crepe soles, creamy like Wensleydale cheese. We’d come home and prance around the garden doing handstands and cartwheels, as lively as lambs.
Today the wet grass was squishy under my feet, and the sun was sparkling on the drops of moisture between the blades. The strong light made the bark of the silver birches shine stark white, and the ends of the twigs were thickening up, ready to burst into leaf. It was like a painting of a spring day by Sisley.
When I’d finished hanging out the washing, I stepped back and gazed at the long line of T shirts, sweat shirts, towels and jeans and I had an idea. This would be much more original than my shots of narcissi spread out under the trees in the Botanical Gardens.
I went inside to get my camera and switched the kettle on for coffee. Back outside, I walked to the far corner of the garden and looked at the line from there. I took down two T-shirts and pegged them up again, swapping their previous positions. Then I exchanged the places of a pair of vivid lilac jeans with a navy sweatshirt, and stood back to assess the difference.
“Champion,” said a familiar voice from the other side of the garden wall. “Now you’ve got them that way round the lilac counterpoints all the blues and greens. Nice.”
I turned round. He was dressed in cycling clothes. Did he do nothing else but cycle? Was he a professional?
“I’m glad you don’t think I’m mad,” I said.
I walked over and leaned my elbows on the top of the wall.
“Did I say that?” He grinned. “Don’t put words in my mouth.”
“I love to see washing on a line,” I said.
I beamed. “So what makes it so appealing? I mean – it’s not just the aesthetics – the colours, and the way the shapes change when it billows in the wind, is it? Do you know that early Kandinsky painting of washing on a line?”
“It’s the memory of Mam - my mother - hanging it out when I was little. And domestic order. The security that comes from that.”
“Exactly,” I said. “The essence of home.”
“There’s a continuity. When I’m hanging out my washing I feel, I don’t know, what’s that pseudy word? Grounded.”
“And rotary driers just aren’t the same, are they?”
“God, no,” he said. “Completely different. Purely functional.”
“And we haven’t even touched on the feel and smell of the washing when you bring it in at the end of the day – the way it kind of links you to the elements. If the day’s been hot, the dry washing is like a tangible memory of sunshine.”
Thank you Sue for a lovely contribution to the literature of hanging out the washing.