Saturday, 27 August 2011

Talk of the Wash House

Born and bred in Leeds quite a lot of my family lived in a place called Quarry Hill. It was, when I was a kid the largest social housing complex in the UK. It was where "Queenies Castle" was filmed, the star of the show being Diana Dors, but Quarry Hill itself put up quite a bit of competition.

The place was quite intimidating, entering the large archways into its inner sanctum, lots and lots of flats and lots of people. My mums sister lived here and I would visit often, especially on a Sunday as this was baking day. As the oven would be on a long time to cook the roast it was thought best not to waste gas and utilise this by getting all the weeks baking done at the same time. The smell on entering the kitchen was to behold, the table would be full with all sorts of sweet and savoury delights, my Auntie was a cracking baker.

This place was very communal, everyone knew everyone and it was surprisingly a very safe place for the kids to play, if anyone strange entered those huge archways there was always somebody hung over the balcony to quiz and question who they were and who were they going to see, and chased off if the explanation wasn't satisfactory.

Apart from baking day my other favourite day to visit was a Monday, it was wash day. My Auntie and I would wrap the dirty laundry up in a bed sheet and pile it on to a pram to take to the wash-house. The wash-house amazed me, with huge washing drums, wooden draining boards to scrub collars and cuffs, and the dryers were a little scary, they were about door height and you pulled them out toward you where you then hung the wet washing on metal rods, it was very efficient, the clothes would be dry in super quick time.

Most of the day would be spent at the wash-house, getting the clothes washed, dry and there was also a room where you could iron. All the women would be busy getting everything done, in those days each day of the week meant a specific chore to do. There was also another room where you could have a cup of tea and toast, the women would chatter away whilst doing their work, but it was hot, steamy and noisy in the work area, this room was where they really could have a conversation! Everything and everyone was discussed, no misdemeanor unnoticed, it was a catch up of the previous weeks events and more importantly the weekends, who had come home drunk, who's husband had hit his wife and who had brought a man back to her flat.

This place was a rich source of one of my favourite past times, people watching, even as a kid I loved it, but learned very quickly it wasn't a good idea to be the "Talk of the Wash House".

Sha X

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