IT’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.
It’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.