Day 92 – day at Three Cliffs

writing and laundry, foam floods and laundry vans

18th July 2013

Oh, luxury of luxury, another day in the same place, simply stationary. I have slightly front-loaded so that these last two weeks are much more relaxed, only averaging around twelve miles a day and days off as well – indeed just the pace Andrew Morgan had said was more sensible before I started. Of course then I would have still been walking in September.

So I have a day to write and do my last laundry … as I only have ten days of walking left and a week or so after that before going back to Tiree, I will probably not need to do any more washing. However, that heavy word ‘last’ haunts me again, yet another reminder that I am nearing the end.

I manage to catch up with the last few days’ writing, including one day that ends up at four and half thousand words, I think because I am now in ‘home territory’, so I have more reminiscence.

After putting the washing in the machine, I return for some breakfast and mean to go straight back to the washing after eating, as I expect it will take about 45 minutes.  However, as I eat I first read, and then start to write, and the next thing I know it is four hours later.

On the way back to the laundry, I have a few words with Mark‘s wife, who is doing a ‘changeover’ in one of the shepherd’s huts, pushing the new bedding down the road in a sort of wheelbarrow-like trolley. She explains that Mondays are the busy days when all the huts usually need to be changed over after long weekends, but other days it is usually just a few.

I do not trust myself to return to the campervan, so sit in the laundry and read. I am reading Alice Warrender‘s An Accidental Jubilee, which I had bought in the community shop, far north in Tre’r-ddol. It is about her decision to walk the pilgrimage route across Europe to Rome following a near-fatal bicycle accident.

Part way through, Mark‘s wife drops a large bag into the laundry with ‘scamperholidays’ written on it, and later a van comes, picks up this bag and drops off two more. It is a laundry van, I guess principally serving hotels and guesthouses; I think I have seen the odd one outside very large hotels, but the sight of one at this more modest location reminded me of the laundry van when I was little.

We had a large double-fronted Victorian terrace, and had sufficient spare rooms to take a small number of long-term half-board guests. When I was very little these were mostly female physiotherapy students, followed by backstage theatre people, then after Dad died a short period of Irish navvies who paid well, but, after a day digging the road, could not help tramping that thick orange Cardiff clay through the house, and finally young male students from the local FE college.

In later years Mum washed the sheets herself, but in the early days, the sheets were all packed into linen bags and the laundry van would call to pick them up. In those days fewer people had washing machines, and anyway drying in small terraced house gardens was not easy. I can’t recall when it stopped, maybe when we got the new front-loading automatic washing machine. Before that we had a top loader with built-in mangle, which I don’t really recall that well, but the front loader I do.

One of the objections to front loaders was, "what happens when I find the dropped sock on the floor?" With a top loader you simply lift the lid and drop it in (no safety interlock in those days), but you can’t do that with a front loader with a drum full of soapy water. The solution was a round screw-on cap in the middle of the round glass door. You could simply unscrew the cap and stuff in the sock. You don’t see that nowadays. They had obviously thought about small children, and the button to open the door could be unscrewed to prevent it being accidentally opened while full, but I have visions of mothers coming into the kitchen to find their child spinning like a windmill after unscrewing the little cap and sticking their arm inside.

They had also not worked out the right washing powder formula for front loaders and you had to keep an eye out for excess foam. If you didn’t get the quantity right, the foam would fill the drum and then start to flow out through an overflow hole on the top left of the machine. Dad, in true 1960s style, had knocked through the wall between the front sitting room and the back living/dining room and then beyond that was a large glass door to the conservatory-style kitchen, also built by him. So you could see right the way through from where you sat to watch television to the kitchen. Every so often someone would glance towards the kitchen and if the foam began to flow there was a shout and a wild dash to get a bucket under it, before the kitchen floor was flooded with bubbles.

So, certainly this front loader was part of the demise of our use of the laundry van, although maybe the true death knell was the dreaded fast-dry nylon sheets. The thin slippy nylon I could just about stand, but I never again want to sleep on one of those slightly flocky cottonette-style ones that catch on your toe nails or work-rough hands.

I almost find myself humming ‘nylon killed the laundry van’ to the tune of ‘video killed the radio star’.

While waiting for the laundry I pop back and forth into the shop to get drinks and chat a little to one of the sons serving there about their use of social media. He had told me about using the @Swansea_Bay Twitter tag when I arrived and he realised I was doing a lot of blogging and tweeting. He said they are finding tweeting really useful to do things like let people know about full periods. Last weekend they had been full, he tweeted this and it halved the telephone calls. Although this is the first year they have been thinking seriously about social media, he said that 30% of their new bookings were coming through Facebook.

Returning to the van, a bag bursting with fresh dry t-shirts and underpants, I chat to the couple in the next pitch, who have only just got their campervan. They live Worcester way and have hired campers before for going abroad, but never owned one. This is their first trip and they are getting to know what equipment they need, etc. Their next stops are Tenby and St Davids and so I am able to give them some tips about camping places. I realise after I must have sounded like a walking encyclopaedia.

One thought on “Day 92 – day at Three Cliffs

  1. hi Alan, I’ve just read through a few of your blogs. It is so interesting to hear your reflections in rural Wales, such a courageous thing to do, such an adventure. I’m busy discovering computing in the city here in Manchester where wonderful things are going on.

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