by Robert Long
You never knew when it was going to be boiling day, there was no seemingly fixed or planned time for my mother to do it, but of course there was for her who always liked to keep on top of the washing, not one to let it build up.
Not been totally up to date with her schedule and therefore having no knowledge it was going to be the 'day' your first indication would be the smell, which would always attract you from outside, with the kitchen been on the front of the dwelling, with the window wide open and all steamed up just seeing the odd outline of her here and there dotting around. On entering the front door you find yourself in the corridor with the living room at the end of it and on the second left is the steam room, otherwise known as the kitchen. The door would be shut with signs of activity going on without even having to look... been a child with boiling water around in our house didn't come without its warnings, or at least that's what she called them... I'd call it an ear bashing, any given chance of one of those was never turned down, her version of health and safety.
So to get in the kitchen you had to take it nice n' slow, inch the door open while at the same time carefully poke your face through the ever widening gap. Obviously the smell was a lot more stronger and heavy in the air in the heat of the kitchen, moisture running down the vinyl silk finished walls, wet work tops, wet floor, wet everything, and steam spreading up and across the ceiling and on out the window, and on the gas stove was the big old boiler, grey in colour, round in shape with handles on either side, standing next to it would be the lady of the house with a big pair of prongs in hand grappling at bed sheets or bath towels, big, heavy and hot work is the boiling, and with the sweat dripping off her nose and brow raising the sheets to the ceiling followed by a prodding on the way down as the water bubbles away. It's not really called for these days people relying on machine instead but she would probably say the women of today are missing out on that exercise plus the home made steam room only problem being not much time to relax in it. She's up to date now what with having a washing machine and the chucking out of the old boiler, only to purchase a smaller one for smaller items such as tea towels or her rather large under crackers, not together though mind you. So until the next time the sweet smell of soap suds comes drifting along through the air with its hypnotizing odour, I will just have to wait until my forgotten memories are awoken and not washed away forever.