Sunday 28 November 2021

The Sunday Ishmael 28/11/21

Which story shall we feature today, from this week's grubby pack of cards?

New Variant omygodcron out of Africa? Dr Angelique Coetzee says not to worry, you'll be fine.
War with France?
J'suis rolling up mes manches, Borees . And that Prittee can't come to my party.
Europe's leaky border with Bellarus? And Morocco? And Turkey?
Britain's with France?
stupid blow-up rubber dinghies.

Ru Paul's Drag Race?
will someone carefully explain to me why this isn't a contemptuous mockery of women?
 Is Everything OK, Prime Minister?

Lobsters and crabs are sentient and object to being boiled to death?

Storm Arwen?

Oor Gnasher, speaking to Andrew Marr on the eve of her Conference speech to her party? 
Slow down - always fun watching Marr wind her up. 
There were 300 extra deaths this year in Scotland, Mrs Fish.
 I'm responsible.
Yes, you are. A man died after waiting forty hours for an ambulance in Glasgow.
Well, I'm not responsible for that. When I say I'm responsible, I mean that I'm responsible in the sense of having responsibility as First Minister, but I don't drive the ambulances or anything.

As First Minister, can you tell me why there are 1,358 acute beds less in the NHS than when you became responsible?
That's because when my mum had her cataract surgery she was in hospital for weeks. Now we get them back on the streets in a day.
It is estimated that Scotland needs 1000 extra beds to deal with the backlog.
Well, that's because there are over 1,000 people in hospital as what we call "delayed discharges".
Why is that, First Minister?
Because there is no capacity in the community.
Ah, thank you for that, First Minister. And will you be announcing the date of the Independence referendum in your speech to the SNP Conference tomorrow?
No, Andrew, don't be silly. Covid. I'm fighting a pandemic here in Scotland.
No, this Sunday, I'll be going with the class war, as usual.
mr mongoose said: "The truly cheaper energy source (nuclear) has been badmouthed and demonised all my life, and yet deaths and illnesses from nuclear power are a fraction of a single 1% of all the slaughter of oil and coal over the years."
Which neatly segues into this story, which can be heard in full on BBC Sounds - Aberfan: Tip Number 7, and was dramatised in Series 3 of  The Crown.
Ishmaelites who are aged 55 and younger can have no contemporaneous memories of the Welsh mining disaster on the 21st October 1966, yet the sheer horror of it has seared itself into our collective unconscious. 
It looks like a lava flow - but this disaster, which, as you can see, destroyed a farm, 20 terraced houses and the Pantglas Junior School, depositing mud and rubble in depths of up to 33 feet, was entirely man-made and entirely avoidable. The Merthyr Vale Colliery had been established in the nineteenth century, and a town had developed at Aberfan, the sole purpose of which was the extraction of coal from underground, in the usual conditions of extreme dangerousness attendant on coal mining. After nationalisation, the National Coal Board took over the profits and liabilities - liabilities that included the seven mountainous slag heaps that surrounded the little town of 5,000 people. Slag heaps are a by product of coal extraction, comprising unwanted soil and rubble, just parked up in man made massive heaps. Inherently unstable - with no attempts to stabilise them, as that would eat into profit, the Aberfan slag heaps were more unstable than most as the rubbish waste products were dumped on underground springs. The NCB had been repeatedly warned about the danger these unstable mud mountains presented - especially Tip Number 7, as it loomed over the village school. After heavy rain, the tip went, sliding down the valley, destroying everything in its path. Two broken water mains continued to pump water into the slurry, adding between 2 and 3 million gallons of water to the spoil slurry, which continued to move through the village. There was no time to evacuate the school. 
The corpses of 116 children and 28 adults were extracted with extreme difficulty from the compacted slurry over a period of a week, and were stored in the nearby Bethania Chapel, pending burial in a mass grave.
Queen Elizabeth II, by then a monarch of 13 years' experience in the job, delayed her visit to Aberfan by 8 days, thinking that was for the best.
The subsequent report of the Aberfan Disaster Tribunal said: "The Aberfan Disaster is a terrifying tale of bungling ineptitude by many men charged with tasks for which they were totally unfitted, of failure to heed clear warnings and of a total lack of direction from above."
It was said that this was corporate negligence towards the working class.
No-one was prosecuted, no-one from the National Coal Board lost their jobs. The Chairman of the NCB tendered his resignation, as a PR gesture, after being assured that his resignation would not be accepted. 
All of this was bad enough, but subsequent actions were appalling. A Disaster Fund had been established, with contributions flowing in from around the world. My dad didn't contribute. He said Corporate Greed and the Government had caused the disaster and they had to make it good. Poor people sending in their pounds and shillings would let the perpetrators off the hook. That's what happened. The Disaster Fund reached £1.75 million. The National Coal Board refused to pay for the removal of the remaining six unstable slag heaps. The Government removed £150,000 from the Disaster Fund to pay for the removal. That sum was eventually repaid by Government in 1997 - thirty-one years later, with no accounting for inflation, which would have put the sum to be repaid at around £1million.
The victims' families were treated as trouble makers. Some children had been pulled out of the slurry alive. When the sounds of a child buried in the mud and filth were heard by the rescuers, a whistle was blown, the whole scene fell silent, so that rescuers could hear where the trapped child was making efforts to save themselves from drowning or suffocation, and then scrabble away the slurry with their bare hands to avoid further injuring the trapped child.
The Aberfan Disaster Fund wanted to pay compensation to those surviving children for their trauma. However, the Fund's trustees believed that proof of trauma would be required by the Charity Commission and so the children were subjected to medical tests in a psychiatric hospital. Survivor Gaynor Madgwick described the test: thick gel was put in her hair and a cap was put on her head.
"You were then plugged into a board - the board was behind your head on the bed - like a piece of wood board. There were all these plugs and leads coming out of the board which would be fixed into the cap on your head and you had to sit there and be interrogated, basically. You had to stare at these different lights and follow this beam that went around the room. It was torture, interrogation. You lost all sense of who you were."

Gerald Kirwan,  eight years old when he was rescued, said he was attached to machines and asked if he was afraid of the dark or if he had nightmares. He said: "I was thinking... you better not say the wrong thing or you might not be coming back out of here. It was just horrifying."

 Jeff Edwards was the last child pulled out alive. He said he was taken to the hospital every three to four months."Being fitted with these head devices with electrodes all on and flashing lights was a really frightening experience. I used to hate going down there. It was not a children's hospital as such. It was a mental institution for people who were quite seriously mentally ill."

The Aberfan Disaster Fund also wanted to give bereaved families £5,000 - the Charity Commission eventually  sanctioned that sum after initially holding out for £500, but advised that "before any payment was made, each case should be reviewed to ascertain whether the parents had been close to their children and were thus likely to be suffering mentally".

Parents were questioned about their feelings for their children. It was as though the working class were a different species, lacking human emotion. Ironic - as the working class do not send their children away from home at the age of 7 or 8 to cry themselves to sleep in expensive boarding schools, and, if really unlucky, to be beaten and buggered by senior boys and masters.  

When the sealed documents were released after 30 years, the Charity Commission expressed regret - the regret can be summarised along the lines of we're sorry we've been found out, the past is a foreign country, they did things differently then and we won't do it again. 

Less than 20 years  after the Aberfan disaster, Mrs Thatcher solved the problems presented by working class mining communities. The Miner's Strike of 1984 to 1985 was led by Arthur Scargill of the National Union of Mineworkers against the National Coal Board in an attempt to prevent colliery closures - which would destroy mining communities and livelihoods. Opposition to the strike was led by Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who wanted to reduce the power of the Trade Union movement. mr ishmael reviewed a BBC documentary about the Miner's Strike:


Well worth a look, on many levels, this is contemporaneous documentary about the miners strike of 1984, spliced into a  a recent  history of coal  mining  versus the greenhouse gases agenda;  one couldn't help but think that many of those types who coalesced around the miners would, today, be damning them as ecovandals; protest, like hemlines, comes  dictated by political haute couturistes, angry layabouts at the Guardian, policing consumerisme totalitarienne, as though all we need to do is make  constantly evolving informed choices and Money's teeth will be painlessly pulled;  in my short, sweet lifetime coalmining - and, inescapably, coal burning - has been both virtue and vice;  miners lionised, salt of the Earth blokes; miners holding the country to ransom, the enemy within.  That the workshy at the BBC make a series called All Our Working Lives is an irony simply too delicious,  darling.

Mr jgm2, mr mongoose and others who congregate here lament ever the nineteen-seventies' shortsightedness of organised labour and to a lesser degree the multiple incompetences of management and directors and insist that Ruin would not be so complacent had the unions been more co-operative - supposing the managers had had something on offer to co-operate with - if we had some eggs we could  have ham and eggs,  if we had some ham,  that sort of thing, ifs and ands, if ifs and ands were pots and pans there'd  be no need for tinkers and there'd be horses for beggars to ride on.  I have never bought the argument that recalcitrant shop stewards buggered the economy, buggered industry, buggered everything.  I believe that much that we rightly take for granted  is due to organised labour in the early and mid-twentieth century,  that all Tories are bastards, that Growth - population, consumption, energy expenditure - the Tory  mantra of spunkfaced zombie boy and his gang - and by Tory I mean Labour, LibDem and the rest of consumerisme totalitairienne -  is actually a synonym  for planetary suicide, but fuck all that, there's enough air left to see me out, enough living seas;  poison clouds are only just forming on the horizon, I'll be in the bosom of Abraham by the time zombieism runs its course.  The miners strike, though, viewed through this prism,  is almost enough to make a believer of me, to convert me to the  labour-bashing cause.

Bob Dylan sang in 1964's North Country Blues that the Minnesotan Iron Range ore wasn't worth diggin',  it's much cheaper down in the South American towns, where the miners work almost for nothing -  early globalisation laying waste to communities defenceless against Money's pursuit of itself and in 'eighties Britain many felt that our mining communities would soon suffer the same, stars one by one they are folding, fate - coal bought-in, from abroad, their men made workless and depressed, their children made migrant;  these were decent and righteous concerns shared by many.  The strike became a focus for wider anxieties, for a head-to-head between the Then and the Now and in the brouhaha, in the All-I-Can-Do-Is-Confrontation posturing of Whisky Maggie, we all lost sight of the concept of Energy Security and Self-Sufficiency, of  the fact that, maybe, these pits could have been made more competitive, less a filthy subterranean co-operative, more of an energy business, and maybe they would still be working, today, cleaner,  vastly safer, massively more productive, maybe, most likely a carbon-capture technology in place,  the envy of the world.  All that stored-up sunshine, cleanly harvested, employing people.

Thatcher, though, happily pissing North Sea Oil revenues up the wall, the mad bastard, concerned herself only with a short-sighted, Methodist victory over her tribal enemies, cheered-on by vengeful,  gutless spivs like Tebbit and that foul, screeching  bullyboy, Ingham, she spun and she spun and she blew the mines down. Job done. Pour concrete down the mines.  Rejoice, we are a fuckwit.

In the programme, once prominent strikers, union officials  and scabs appeared,  following footage of themselves  shot during the strikes. These blokes, twenty-five years on, proudly still speak their fucking awful dialects, nobutting and summating and  'appenyerrightin' and loosin' and middlin' and mashin'; Jesus fucking wept, self-caricaturisng 'emselves, as though whole o t'world were a play, like, by that DH Lawrence, and them all reight good sooarts, werkin chaps, like. I wanted to punch them hard in the gob.  I kind of agreed with them about the scabs, although the scabs made a good Thatcherite, right to work case for themselves and who could not be pissed off by the Tory politicisation of the cops,  made crass and irreversibly  obvious during the strike, but, oh, the language of these men, long redundant, handsomely so.  We all have an argot - lovers, families, trades, regions but to go on national telly and speak like a sub epsilon Morlock is unforgiveable, a take-it-or-leave-it contempt for the viewer, and most significantly a diminution by slipshod carelessness of the  arguments they made in the 'eighties about the strength and importance of their communities,  the social capital which would be squandered by mine closures;  interviewed today these men sounded like extras from Heartbeat or Emmerdale Farm. It's not as though they can't speak English, of course they can, it's just that, Oh fuck, I don't know what it is, but it's fucking stupid, like them; stage Lancashire, stage Yorkshire, stage Notting-um;  All Our Yesterdays  meets The Good Old Days,  political struggle togged-up as music hall. Wankers.

But the greatest revelation to me was not the shallowness of the workers but the almost laughable shallowness of their champion-for-life, Arthur Scargill.  More  shrilly Thatcher than Thatcher herself, Arthur was nothing less than a diva, operatic in his fists clenched to his bosom, his arms outstretched, his head, though, rigidly immobile, lest dramatic gesture disturb his comb-over.  
These days, men like Arthur can shave their heads and not be fucking about with all that comb-over nonsense, can look like hardmen, even when they're fairies,  fairies with  shining  skulls, like Ross Kemp and, well, all of them, really; just  a different masculine vanity, it's true, but less cumbersome, less at the mercy of the wind.  And Scargill's rhetoric was as phony as his haircut, difficult to credit that it inspired tens of thousands to beggar themselves. Lambchop sideburns and hair picked up on one side and deposited on the other, Scargill gave his own version of Prince Hal's speech, when your children ask you where you were, you can say you were on strike, men now abed will wish they were on strike, it was fucking dreadful, really, it was, made Gordon Snot look sincere and eloquent. Maybe all the miners were fairies and it was all, Orgreave and Saltley and the rest, a big, dirty, GayPride event. What was Arthur like, getting arrested and everything, like a silly big girl?  For there was nothing pragmatic about  Arthur, he was no technocrat, no visionary, not even a polemicist, a one hit wonder's what he was, Strike and Never Surrender, what matters is not the industry, not your jobs, not the nation's energy, what matters is me, and No, comrade-darlings, I am not bald;  like Thatcher, he was a rabble-rouser, both of them too vain, too stupid to even recognise the damage they were doing. Maggie, Maggie, Maggie;  Ar-thur Scar-gill, Ar-thur Scar-gill, we'll support you ever more, ev-er more......

It is a fascinating documentary, interviews with Rudge, the man who bought many of the pits and made shitloads of money, hint at what might have happened, had the nation and the miners not been governed by screeching fuckwits, each as bad as the other, each emblematic of their own constituents, too stupid and too selfish to breathe. The sinister appearances of  the National Coal Board's Ian McGregor, Thatcher's imported US industrial gangster, foreshadow Enron and Goldman Sachs and Haliburton, all the shit we now take for granted, pimps and gangsters advising the govament on how best to short-change the people.

The closing sequence is of one of those dialecting babymen, proper  over t'moon, that his lad has followed him underground and now works maintaining the high speed belts which retrieve coal from the face, in an industry which now, where it once numbered more than  a hundred thousand,  employs six thousand. And we fret that some Ukrainian bandit might turn off our energy.
In the good old days, to which spunkface zombieboy would return us, coalmines were in  careless, private  hands;  the Gresford Mining Disaster,  in which 242 colliers were lost, and three men of the rescue brigade, was one of those terrible events which underpinned Scargill's shabby,
vainglorious rhetoric,  the owners' lust for profits far outweighing the safety of the miners.  For those interested, the Albion Band's telling  of the Gresford Mining Disaster is on youtube. 

There's more from mr ishmael and his young friend Stanislav in the two books: Honest Not Invent and Vent Stack from Lulu or Amazon. It is cheaper to buy from Lulu. Register an account with Lulu to save a couple of quid, as going straight into the link provided below seems to make paypal think it's ok to charge in dollars, and apply their own conversion rate, which will put the price up slightly for a UK buyer. Once the new account is set up, follow our link; a pop-up box asks for age confirmation - simply set the date to (say) 1 January 1960, and proceed. (If you type the title, the anthology will not appear as a search result until the "show explicit content" box - found at the bottom left by scrolling down - has been checked.  You may also see the age verification box, as above, at this point.) 

 The full title is "Vent Stack love from stanislav" by ishmael smith, and the cover you'll see is red with white titles and a picture of Buster the Previous Blog Dog having a green thought in a green shade. 

Link for the paperback:


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Image caption,


Mike said...

My mother was the youngest of a family of 13 kids raised in Cudworth near Barnsley. 2 or 3 of the kids died young - poverty. The males of the family all went down the local pit. There was a mining disaster and 3 of the brothers were killed. Her mother promptly packed up the family and went to Manchester to get away from mining. However, the males again stated coal mining. One of my uncles would cut coal with an axe upto his waist in water. He was retired early and could hardly walk, his knees were wrecked. We visited once a week and he would give us eggs from his chickens, and seasonal vegetables from his allotment. He was obviously a tough bloke, but surprisingly gentle.

I remember the Aberfan disaster vividly which of course brought up bad memories in my wider family.

I lived in Sheffield for a while where I met and married my wife. Some of her extended family were miners in Doncaster. Although we had moved to London by the time of the miners strike we regularly visited relatives in Sheffield. The strike was highly divisive in mining communities, even within individual families. And Scargill added petrol to the fire further dividing opinion. Even without Thatcher, I doubt that the coal industry would have ever recovered from such deep division amongst the workforce.

mrs ishmael said...

These are tough memories, mr mike. The millennial generation might wonder why miners would undertake such horrifically dangerous work after the lived experience of a mining disaster. The answer is - because they had to. Because there was no other work. Because they were brought up to the expectation of going down the pit, that's what your family did. Because you and your family would starve if you didn't. Shit times. On my recent road trip I visited the Beamish Living Museum in Northumberland. The mining communities of Northumberland and Wales were close - the miners and their families would go where the work was in the big coal seams; the quilting traditions of Welsh and Northumberland strippy quilts and wholecloth quilts were identical, as miners' wives, in addition to bringing up 13 kids in a couple of rooms, feeding them, keeping them clean and making their clothes, would work through the night hand stitching quilts with tiny, even stitches by inadequate light to sell to supplement the income made by their men down the pit. I visited the reconstruction of a pit village and sat in the classroom of a school just like the Pantglas School.
Thank you for sharing, mr mike.

Mike said...

There is a very interesting Living Museum in Ballarat, which in the second half of the nineteenth century was one of the largest gold producers in the world. It why Melbourne exists, and there are so many splendid Victorian buildings; it was the port for getting stuff in/out of Ballarat from the Empire. You can go down one of the gold mines and there are re-creations of the gold mining. Many of the miners were Cornish tin miners. Little blokes 5 ft tall who could work in the confined spaces. The local guides dress in period costume. I asked one if there was still gold to be found (fossicking is popular locally). With a straight face he said "no"; in his cravat he had a tie pin which was a gold nugget - a big one.

mongoose said...

We have discussed these things here before, mr mike and mrs i. I have been down a dozen of the coal mines of the N Notts/S Yorks coalfield. I have stayed even further up north near Beamish for a reason and detail I can no longer remember apart from that I set fire to my bath-towel in the hotel room. But 'The Beamish Park Hotel' rings a bell.

Mr i and I, and I suspect mrs i and I, disagree about unionism and the 70s not because any of the three of us is wrong or wicked but because we have lived lives to this point from different origins.

I was born in Coventry and lived there in the sixties and seventies, and the car factories would strike/close early on Friday through some manufactured grievance more weekends than you can possibly imagine. They just cynically fucked off home after Friday lunchtime. Shackle this to my father, whose own father was born during the Irish Famine, and you can see how the answer to all of life's problems is "get the fuck out of bed and go to work! Nobody will help you and your family but you and your family". There was no TU solidarity in Connaught to be had, mrs i.

I worked in the coal industry in South Wales as early as the autumn of 1986. God, they were beaten men. Sad, heartbroken, fucked for sure. And also magnificent, They knew what community meant. My idiotic schoolboy purpose was to find ways of making the industry "more efficient". They knew but I didn;t that this meant the efficient - however I chose to measure it in my schoolboy short trousers - would survive and that the inefficient - their brothers - would not. One of them didn't but jumped off the top of the batteries one weekend. I processed this information on the Monday morning and couldn't look any of them in the face that Monday afternoon.

I met a man one day who was called, and I do not lie, Fab Dai. Fab was short for fabrication. He was a foreman who spent his entire working life fixing big metal things which had been broken by dragging rock out of the ground and about the place, and then making coke of it. He was a better engineer then than I am now. I have not a shred of a doubt about it. Dai and I got on to the extent that he once said 'We don't think you're a bad lad.' This BTW is a badge that a man more of a weasel than I hope I am would use to bring sleep in the dark hours of the night. All of them are gone. The whole industry of bringing cheap energy to poor folk so that they don't have to go to bed at 4pm in the winter is now called the devil.

I think that it is time to call the green blob 'domestic terrorists'. They want to hurt us and our children.

Now the question we have to ask is 'why?'.

inmate said...

Now the question we have to ask is ‘why?’
I may have mentioned it before, back down the road a while, mr mongoose; UN Agenda 21. Argued by, essentially well meaning ‘scientists’ that the world could not support the ever increasing consumption of an ever increasing population. These ideas were then jumped on by our betters, the rich and therefore cleverer and the Iknowbesters. Funnily enough there was little mention of CO2 back then being the evil that it apparently is.
We were to bring the developing world up to ‘our’ level, reducing hunger, providing brown children with clean water and real jobs, providing tax revenues to support their new found democracy, with its bureaucrats and govaments.
But of course that would be very expensive, who was to pay for all this good shit? Well not our betters, they’ve never paid for fuckall.
So, I hate beginning a sentence with so, however, it was argued that reducing western consumption would be the cheaper option and that’s what we’re getting.
Get everyone living in mega-cities, within walking distance of a bus or tram stop for travel to work, with food production, veggie only, around those cities and re-wilding the countryside and rain forests, for use only by the great an the good.
It’s cheaper to keep us cold, hungry and frightened, like the slopes, sand niggers and wogs we’re supposedly helping, rather than look to alternatives like, as you say, Nuclear or geothermal. Besides CO2 is stored sunshine, plant food. We need more of it.

mrs ishmael said...

I don't disagree with your analysis, mr inmate, but the problem is too many people, all expecting continuous growth and a decent standard of living. Overpopulation is the problem.

mongoose said...

All of that is likely true, mr inmate. I believe that it is called 'curated information'. TPTB invest in a storyline and then nurture it and protect it against naysayers until it becomes nothing less than Holy Writ. 'The' science, 'the' investment. It is all about that endless repetition. Amo, amas, amat, one times two is two, two times two is four. Until you know it. Now our kids 'know' that climate change is physics, is scientific truth. And they also know fuck all else! It is completely wicked.

The late, great Hans had it right about population. The answer is not to limit consumption in the developed world but to raise living standards in the underdeveloped world. Why is this so difficult to understand?

mongoose said...

I just watched Hans again myself. It is interesting what a decade brings. The data science is undeniable. Families who are more secure in the likelihood of their kids surviving have fewer kids. The engine of prosperity through intellectual investment in children leads to better lives, safer lives, family planning, folk that are healthier, wealthier and wiser. And fewer.

We'll forgive him his Scandie socialist nonsense about global governments solving things though. He was a good lad despite all that.

inmate said...

I don’t think the problem is over population mrs I, as mr mongoose says, with proper education, stable families are confident that their young will survive, thus no need for many, many kids. I think it was Hans who predicted that the world population would top out at around 9 billion, if the underdeveloped worlds housewives had washing machines. But of course they’d need consistent water and power, an we can’t have that can we Greta? Store more rain water, that’d be a good start, an it would lower the oceans to save those poor Marshall Islanders and barraknmichael’s waterfront property.

mrs ishmael said...

Gentlemen, it sounds like you are agreed that the problem is over population, but you differ from me in your analysis of how people can refrain from having large families. I think the solution is education for women, free access to contraception and abortion. You see, I'm thinking of the practical means of limiting population growth.
I liked Hans' lecture and the Ikea boxes as visual aids, mr mongoose - he's an amusing chap

mongoose said...

Hans was with you - and indeed us all - on that, mrs i. the emancipation of women from constant pregnancy and the drudgery of manual household chores - not the least of which is fetching clean water - it all lends them time to teach their daughters to read and write.

The Magic Washing machine.

mrs ishmael said...

Brilliant, mr mongoose - of course everyone wants a washing machine. And once you've got one, you are not going to give it up. Washing machines for all - but the fewer people there are, all, we would hope, enjoying the benefits of industrialisation, the fewer washing machines will be needed. I loved Hans' story of his grandmother sitting in front of the washing machine to watch the entire cycle. I was similarly thrilled when we got a robotic vacuum cleaner. I would stand there watching Roomba spin around and launch itself on different trajectories until it ran out of battery and parked itself back on its charging station. The 1841 Census revealed that the Manse had 6 live-in servants - four females and two males.
How do you expect me to run this place without any servants, mr ishmael?
But you have a huge, tireless servant, mrs ishmael - Electricity.

mongoose said...

Before before, mrs i, I was the wee pre-school one who helped my dear old with the Monday washing. Single tub, mangle and separate cyclindrical "spinner" (?). Sheets were the bastard, hauled out of the washer with those nasty, greasy tongs. (I think we put the top sheet on the bottom and washed the bottom one. Cotton. Hospital corners. Beds 'made' every morning before anything else.)

Whites first, the water falling back from the mangle and a wee pipe from the spinner back into the tub. Socks, kecks and footie kit last. It took forever in the summer. Lord knows how she got it all done in the winter. Even I can imagine the delight of Hans's grandma. That's a lot more freedom than deciding your own pronouns.