Saturday, 11 September 2010

Mount Washmore

I’m drowning in washing: Mount Washmore a friend of mine calls it. Foolishly, I thought the end of the holidays, with all the to-ing and fro-ing (Yorkshire, Spain, and camping in Dorset), would mean an end to piles of washing, but of course it doesn’t, it merely signals an end to shorts and t-shirt washing and the beginning of school uniform washing.

As I hang some of it out on the line I think about taking a series of photographs: here’s some of it blowing in the wind, here’s some in the washing machine, here’s some more in the dryer and here are two piles on the floor waiting to be put away, and, wait a minute, yet another pile waiting to be ironed. I’ll call it, ‘five ages of washing,’ my very own Klimt. No wonder I never get on with my book.

I heard a marvellous story about Mel Gibson’s mother, of all people, who had a brood of eleven. As her husband worked in his study one afternoon, she slowly and calmly took every item of soiled clothing out into the garden, in front of his window, made an enormous pile on the lawn, poured petrol on it, lit it with a match and stood back to admire the pyre as her horrified family looked on. Hats off to the woman.

Of course now I have even more uniform to wash than before because Middle One has joined his big brother at secondary school. There are five white shirts and three pairs of black trousers drying on the line, and that’s not all of it.

It was sad to see all that sun-kissed summer skin disappearing beneath itchy white shirts and unforgiving collars. I looked on, on the first morning, as both Eldest and Middle One trussed themselves up and weighed themselves down in regulation ties and blazers topped off with ridiculously oversized rucksacks. It was the first time Middle One had ever worn a tie and he struggled a bit. “Try putting your collar up and folding it down afterwards.” I suggested, as I watched the tie going on over the collar with the seam showing. But he wasn’t going to listen to me. What do I, his mere mother, know about ties! And he’s got a point.

So I just watched, and thought about how lovely it had been to see the three of them revive during the holidays after all that end-of-term madness; hair began to shimmer with streaks of blonde, bodies slowly basted in the warmth, cheeks plumped a bit from all the holiday ice cream and chips (not just ice cream and chips, you understand). And how depressing to come home and have to start dashing around replacing out-grown items of uniform and school shoes they could no longer stuff their feet into.

On the plus side, there had been a very pleasant trip to Westfield with Eldest and Youngest a few days before the new term began. Middle One was out of the way, invited, for the whole day, on an educational trip with his ex-tutor (perhaps there really is a God) and his uniform has been sorted so I thought shopping with two might be manageable, and so it proved. In fact, it was a joy because Eldest has a very similar shopping style to my own, that is: see it, like it, buy it.

Something of a contrast to girls the same age, many of whom we saw at Westfield dragging exasperated mothers from shop to shop. Outside Office there was a stand off: daughter, looking up at the glass ceiling (no pun intended), hands on hips, her poor mother, both her hands jammed into her own hair, exclaiming, “For God’s sake, Sophie/Ella/Maddy!” (I can’t remember which.) “Does it really matter, you just need some practical school shoes, like the ones we bought last year!”

For once I felt just a little bit smug to have boys. Youngest was looking cute and obedient holding my hand as he chatted to himself (in character as a tortoise) as Eldest remarked, reasonably, that he wasn’t bothered what he got for school. We bought a pair of school shoes and some trainers in under an hour. I was so grateful that I treated them and we had a lovely time grabbing yummy things to eat off the conveyor belt at Yo! Suchi.

Youngest doesn’t have to wear a uniform at his primary school, so it was ironic that on Monday morning, his first day back, he spent ages looking for something in his wardrobe that would resemble his brothers’ “suits” as he calls them. He found a monogrammed white P.E. top and a blue jacket and insisted on wearing the same ensemble all week - which considerably cut down on my washing.

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