My nan used to let me play with her mangle (this is not a euphemism).

In her south London flat kitchen she had a table, underneath which, magically lived a mangle which not only helped removed excess damp from clothes, it also ensured you had one bicep big than the other – think of my nan was a precursor to Raphael Nadal.

She owned a mangle because she did not possess a washer/drier. Neither did my parents.  When I was a child in the early sixties washing machine brands were unknown: a Whirlpool was something they had at posh swimming baths; Indesit was something you got if you ate too quickly and Bosch was fifteenth-century Flemish artist obsessed with fish, torture or people being tortured by fish.

A consequence lack of family ownership of a washing machine meant we used the launderette opposite our flats on Balham High Road.

This week I discovered a shop where I get my shoes re-heeled, doubles as a launderette. Whilst queuing to collect my good-as-new shoes I was reminded of the launderette on Balham High Road where my mum would take me and convince me the drying machines were actual TVs.  I spent hours watching an entire drying cycle wondering why I never saw anyone from Emergency, Ward 10!

The shop was identical and almost in some time-wrap, the only difference being that packets of Tide now costs more than two-bob now (or would do if Tide still existed) and the actual machines, old-fashioned though they looked, probably don’t take a couple of half-a-crowns to get the washing started any more.

If you needed your washing moved from washer to drier and then subsequently folded, you could give the woman running the shop a few extra shillings. This was quite ironic as my mum would offer “additional services” to most shop-keepers along Balham High Road for nothing.

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