Washed out

wash 1IT’S a cold day in the wash-house. No washerwomen to be seen. There is evidence of their labours on the rooftop lines of Pampaneira, but the fuente lavadero – the communal laundry at the top of the town – has only one occupant. A ginger cat . . .

An evil wind rasps across the cracked backbone of the Sierra Nevada and snow lies on the daunting slopes of Veleta – Spain’s third-highest mountain. Sparrows crowd under slate eaves as another squall unleashes a flurry of sleet. The land is grey, white and sombre colours that refuse to be categorised. It was nice this morning but it’s not nice now.

wash 3wash 2wash 4It’s a cold job, scrubbing your man’s clothes on rough stone in freezing water with nothing but a slab of soap and a sense of humour. The cat remembers the harsh laughter and camaraderie of washday. But it suspects the women – and probably a few men – have all succumbed to the temptations of Hotpoint and Bosch, and will never again congregate in the fuente lavadero to scour collars and cuffs.

Higher still. The neighbouring villlage of Capileira. No wash-day activities there either
Higher still. The neighbouring villlage of Capileira. No wash-day activities there either

wash 5Can’t say I blame them. On a harsh February afternoon, when the only splash of colour is the red of raw knuckles, I’d be heading for the nearest electrical appliance shop as well.

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23 thoughts on “Washed out

    1. Hi Alan. It’s changed from dry and pleasant to cold and changeable overnight. We’ve had a flurry of snow in Orgiva but nothing that’s settled on the ground. Drove up to Granada today and the mountains are beautiful and white on their northern slopes. Magical even.
      Cheers, Alen

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  1. I enjoyed reading this evocative post. Your pictures are wonderful too and carries more ambiance to your words.
    Village of Capileira! That’s a view!!
    I would enjoy those beautiful surroundings as you probably do. Snow shattered on mountaintops ❤ 🙂
    All the best,
    Hanna

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    1. Hej Hanna. Those villages are beautiful in summer and winter – but definitely much colder at this time of year. Ice and snow on the streets and the roofs; cold wind whistling through the telephone wires. It reminded me of England a little bit. But not much.
      All the best, Alen

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  2. Oh no, don’t buy a washing machine, maintain the tradition, buy yourself a washboard and revive the old Deryck Guyler routine. (Stick it on Youtube.) ‘Getting back to basics’ is all part of living la dolce vita; bread and satsumas for your dinner, the long walk home with your washing basket over your shoulder, music from the Hovis advert playing. Sounds idyllic. And you could build a retro outside toilet…

    I’m getting carried away now.

    Totally off topic. There’s a question I’ve been meaning to ask you, but I don’t know if you can answer it. Do you know Spain well enough to compare Valencia and Valencianistas to a comparitive British city? Are they like Liverpudlians or Geordies, Glaswegians? I’m thinking in terms of the people and how the rest of the country views them. (I watch Valencia on the internet and their supporters are often subjected to, let’s say, less than flattering descriptions. I wondered who Valencianistas would be if they were in a British city.)

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    1. I’d get back to basics tomorrow, but it’s not me who would be using the washboard, unless I was invited to join a skiffle group and sing some Lonnie Donegan numbers (which I could do after a couple of pints, though not necessarily impressively). But I do most of the cooking, so that’s me off the hook.
      And as for the outside toilet, we’ve got big plumbing problems here at the moment and an outside toilet might well be the final solution. I’ve even started to tear up pages of the local paper and thread it on strings just in case this happens.
      Can’t help you with the Valencia question, Chris. The place is a mystery to me. But so is Workington – a town I could never find my way around when I worked for a company delivering office equipment. Perhaps that’s the answer you need. Valencia sounds more appealing than Workington, mind.
      Cheers, Alen
      PS Just watched Deryck Guyler playing his washboard. Great stuff. People don’t appreciate proper entertainment these days.

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      1. I remember Workington Town being bottom of the Fourth Division for years, so maybe the comparison with Valencia isn’t that far off.

        Yor exploits are starting to sound like the stuff of travel biographies. Perhaps a sponsorship deal with one of the newspapers you’re using for er, essential hygeine reasons, could fund the marketing. Deryck Guyler doing the soundtrack. . . .

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        1. The Daily Mail would be the paper of choice for the essential hygeine reasons, but I’d have to stoop to buying it first. This is where digital newspapers come unstuck, if you pardon the expression.

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  3. Good post Alen.
    Every village no matter how small has a lavadero, often with complex water delivery channels.
    I’ve seen some in use in the last few years – women washing and chatting loudly in a village high in the Apennine mountains of Italy.
    Regards John.

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    1. Hiya John. I’d love to stumble across something like that. I’ve seen lavederos in the north of Spain and now in the south, but not one actually being used. I suppose lavaderos are like communal dolly tubs. You don’t see many people using dolly tubs these days either.
      Chheers, Alen

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  4. I never used a stone wash tub, but I do remember hanging clothes outside in the winter. That was bad enough! Lovely prose and great photos. 🙂

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  5. Lovely, Alen! Trust you to find an old place with memories of former industry. Love your photos and vivid descriptions. It’s interesting to see what winter is like in your neck of the woods. My only concern is the ginger puss-cat – is anyone feeding him? Because otherwise…..!

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    1. Can’t tell you anything about the ginger cat, Jo, but if I see it again the next time I’m up there I’ll give it a biscuit. Lots of cats here, and they all seem to be doing okay.
      Chheers, Alen

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        1. No, it was just angry. I was in the queue behind a woman who had it on a lead, and it just attacked me, and the woman didn’t even turn around, she just kept on talking to the chap behind the counter.
          Chip shop on the corner of Broughton Road and Chapel Street, Dalton-in-Furness, circa 1980.

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          1. I know a few dog-owners like that. I was set upon by one in the village a couple of months back – I just felt a huge thump on my back as this huge thing flung itself at me and got hold of the back of my coat. She did bugger all about it!

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  6. Tynemouth Calling. Sorry Alen I just saw the Norwegian Book blog. I thought that your journey took you to Norway and this was the result of navigating using the Breughal painting you have in in the Campervan! As to boring books I go back to Corrour and the pre-riot period. We had a library of about seven books to I suppose to keep us entertained. I ‘liberated’ one (post riot) Maintenance of M5 Half Track US Army. RESTRICTED. (Well I thought it may be handy if I should ever have one ) However there was a book with the title Haunting Of The Shagpat. ( no kidding !) Because of our hasty withdrawal from the Bothy I never got to open it and it has remained a niggling matter ever since. I have used a book finding service to seek out a school book of my early days (If you could not read it by age 7 you were beaten) It was glorious non PC published late 1800s but it cost £120 to get it. So Shagpat remains a mistery. Perhaps this too features in the Breughal ? Perhaps some of your followers visited the Bothy remains and opened this cursed book. Well you are still in Spain and suffering fire floods soon to be snow and pestilence.I suggest a hefty dose of the Brothers Chuckle from the local apothecary forthwith !! If you have you tube ( and the apothecary is out of the Brothers C) Look up Foster Brooks and also John Bird and the late John Fortune doing the Admiral G Parr and General George Parr very true to-day. Incidentally it looks as though Trump will be the new boss so keep a lookout for them missing H Bomb ( may require snorkelling ) but a triumph for you and rewards undreamed of. Must go now now (come to think of it we used to have a shag-pile carpet a book on carpets ? That would eclipse Norwegian wood. Also I was in a M5 Half Track that went BANG) That’s another story. Savi…Tiger ta…more to follow. Pip pip.

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    1. Peter, your comments are always as entertaining and as colourful as any Bruegel, who, incidentally, is one of my favourite artists. Not that I own any of his works, you understand. But I can see where you’re coming from with the map in the van.
      Ah, the missing H-bomb. It was very cack-handed of the US military to drop three H-bombs on mainland Spain and a fourth in the sea off Almeria back in 1966. I know something about this because the incident occurred a year before the Torrey Canyon ran aground off the south coast, and I was researching this for an article and got sidetracked into the H-bomb affair. As well you might.
      Just goes to show that nuclear accidents can and do happen. So when the next generation of Trident submarines blows up in the Firth of Clyde, we’ll have nothing else to worry about. Hope you’ve found your book before that.
      All the best, Alen

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