Laundrette or launderette ? You see I can’t even spell it. I prefer the American word Laundromat (though I was about to spell it with a double T at the end). No matter how this most socially interactive utility is spelt, this is where I am – Sunday lunchtime at the laundrette. As the rest of the world gorges itself slowly into an indigest Sunday afternoon stupour, I am sitting here watching the clothes as they cascade around in the tumble dryer.
Socks, jeans, shirts, pyjamas and suchlike all mix, mingle, flop, race and chase each other round the cavernous drum. The mix of clothes and colours is very random. I am wondering if there is some way to arrange the clothes beforehand to achieve a colour-coded sequence in the dryer. Clothes flailing round in a tumble dryer – an ephemeral art happening – a « sculpture » in movement. I should be filming this
I’m thinking of a darkened room in a modern art gallery with films of clothing cascading round in tumble dryers, projected on huge screens. Pointless but fun.
I’m thinking of a live installation – real Laundry cascading round real tumble dryers in a real laundrette. I’m not drying washing, I’m doing art. However apart from myself and the Romanian couple doing the weekly wash, there’s one around to appreciate our random living art.
There’s been a washing pile up at home. Too much to dry and nowhere to dry it on this damp and chill late November day. Were it decent weather, all this stuff would be outside, joyously jangling and dancing on the washing line. AND we hate indoor drying – half wet streaming Laundry draped over radiators all around the house. – Depressing and just a bit too public. What if a friend pops in? Does he or she really want to see my underwear drying? Do I want this person, however well we might know each other, having intimate knowledge of my underwear or my wife’s underwear? I don’t want to sit round having a drink with a friend as he eyes up my wife’s bras. – Best solution for the winter day dry in the local laundrette.
This is the first time I’ve set foot in a laundrette for over twenty years. Despite the relentless march of progress, the technological revolution, globalisation, miniaturisation (and all other forms of progress that finish with « tion ») – the good old laundrette has not changed a bit. Well, what are you going to do to revolutionise your bog standard local laundrette? Lines of heavy « industrial » washing machines and dryers firmly riveted to the wall in case some steals them. The squat washing machines with their thick porthole doors – they look like miniature one-eyed robots – a line of Cyclops with an eye in their belly. The tall dryers with their massive glass door and cavernous drums looking like the entrance to a Black Hole. The lurid cracked plastic signs on the wall giving prices, operating instructions and safety advice – The Dos and Don’ts warning against the common denominator of human stupidity. Is anyone actually dumb enough to climb into a tumble dryer then get their friend to turn it on? Apart from clothes, what else are you going to put in a washing machine? Certainly not your kids – but in our common senseless, litigation-based society, if it ain’t written « DO NOT » it obviously means you can. Remember the old lady who tried to dry her damp dog in her microwave – SPLAT.
A flood of memories, back to my student days when I lived above a laundrette on the Hackney Road in East London. « Has your flat got a washing machine » asked a friend « We’ve got six washing machines and four tumble dryers » And then there was the DIY dry cleaning machine – always out-of-order. Friday night was washing night. We’d take down our dirty washing and a few bottles of wine and sit boozing with the other customers as our socks, jeans and shirts swam round in the washing machine. Our Beautiful boozy Laundrette.
I suppose that there has been a kind of laundrette revolution. On my last visit to Paris, I found a laundrette cyber café – you could have a few beers, surf the net and do your washing all at once.
And why don’t we buy a tumble dryer or even an all-in-one washer dryer ? My mum had one in her later years – it was just a little too greedy on the electricity and it did tend to not only dry clothes but also dry up any available air in my mum’s flat.