Charlie is living with her old Dad at the moment, which is top, but we are both on our uppers, and I’m currently unable to afford the services of Rachel at LaundryToTu, the internet launderette at the end of Presteigne’s historic High Street. Rachel is a sweetie, but as dim as a Toc H lamp, which has not prevented her from putting my clothes through the not terribly tender mercies of her clearly not very efficient washing machines these past three years. My clothes have never exactly been clean since I started using the service wash facility at LaundryToTu, but at least I haven’t had to do it myself.
But now Rachel’s employers have racked up the prices to a quite shocking degree, and with the state of of my post credit-crunch finances, and Charlie’s post-university penury, it can no longer be sustained. And I can’t face sitting in with Rachel and doing it myself. So there was no option but to drive the six miles to Kington to use the launderette there. I told Charlie that none of my friends have to use launderettes; even, probably, those of my chums who try to earn a living from poetry. The horror. The shame. Even now, an old anti-materialist like myself feels the stigma of sitting in the fragrant humid hellholes.
The only other bloke in was a mad Radnorshire bachelor farmer running his combinations through the dryers; great if you want to live the whole Bruce Chatwin ‘On The Black Hill’ dream, but awkward if you want to actually follow what the other person is saying, since a proper Radnorshire accent is more of a whole new language than a dialect. It is my view that they make it up for outsiders. I went to the charity shop and bought myself Houellebecq’s ‘Platform’ for 50p, and stared out of the windows at the endless pissing rain.
It has been twelve years since I last sat in a launderette doing the washing for both me and Charlie. Back then, there were school uniforms to do as well as the ordinary stuff. I used the Master’s Launderette at the bottom of Stirling Road in Lancaster’s Little Scotland. Stirling Road is about as steep as LaundryToTu’s prices, so although getting there from our house took about 30 seconds, getting home took about half an hour, so I tended to sit on the stark benches of the launderette, and examine the empty pointlessness of my existence. For one blissful year, my chum Ziggy shared a house opposite the Master’s Launderette, so I could have a cup of tea and a pull on our trusty old pipes while all our clothes turned a pastel shade of Lancaster Girl’s Grammer School blue. But the rest of the time it was just me, and the turning machines marking out the long seconds until my death.
One particularly grim day (it was always raining on washday, even then), I came out from the launderette with our pathetic belongings in a binbag, and bumped into a woman I’d been at Lampeter with. She was strapping a beautiful baby into a luxuorious 4be4. We hadn’t seen one another for twenty odd years. She was now Chief Finance Director for Lancaster City Council (or something of the sort; the memory gets hazy after spending too long in launderettes). I was a single parent living on benefits and trying to write a book. It was quite clear that she hadn’t been into a launderette for many years, even though back in the day she’d been an avowed Marxist, who probably believed in communal washing facilities as being a very good thing. I’m sure she couldn’t have thought less of me than she already did, but I felt the stigma of being caught coming out of the launderette. Perhaps, come the Revolution, we will all enjoy communal washing facilities, and enjoy communal singing and passing on gossip about our idealogically unreconstructed neighbours. But until the glorious day when we throw off the capitalist yoke, launderettes are the living end.