Monday, 18 July 2011

Mindful Ironing

I’m not much of a one for ironing, but I had some sheets that had to be washed – sheets I’d found tucked away in a drawer in Mum’s flat, The were stained, but had evidently been put away after a good laundering, compressed but perfectly ironed, rust marked and rather stuffy. I washed them in a good hot wash, tumble dried them (it’s been raining a LOT) to a perfect dampness, then ironed them mindfully. That is I paid attention to what I was doing, savouring the rising steam, enjoying the feel of hot cotton under my fingers getting smoother and smoother, letting my body get into a gentle rhythm of ironing, rather than dashing at it because “it’s got to be done”. Once you find the swing of a task, you do it quicker and better anyway. While I ironed I remembered.

The last time I ironed sheets was with Mum, in the “up in the eyrie” top floor that was her flat in our building. So I remembered that. I remembered her courage in the face of a body whose bones were crumbling within her, while her bright blue eyes still smile dot light up a room. Remembered the fun we had at times, even though other times were difficult.

The sheets bore labels saying “English Lady” and “Horrockses Linen”, which spoke of days gone by, one declares itself to be Egyptian Cotton. One was laundry marked – “Lomer”. Now they are single sheets, and the name Lomer was my grandmother’s (Ganna ) surname  once she married my grandfather, Gerald Hugh. Here they are on their wedding day in St Leonards on Sea, Sussex.

Gerald Hugh Lomer
Here is Gerald,in his uniform, helping with the gardening in the garden at Arklow, where she grew up. He an English soldier in a Southern Irish town at the time of the troubles, keeping the peace. He met her as the family put on evening entertainment for the soldiers; Dr Rowe’s three daughters with piano, violin and voice. She Ethel, the daughter of the town apothecary – known as Dr Rowe, at a time when armed men could be found skulking through the ground floor rooms, while you stayed upstairs, silent, ‘til they had gone. So I remembered them too.

Alice Constance and Alice Katherine Rowe
Then I recalled how, when first married they had a double bed. This, Auntie Connie, Alice Constance Rowe, and their mother Alice Katherine, declared incondusive to the good health and strength of the newly weds. They strongly advised twin beds for a good night’s sleep. Astonishingly, the newlyweds complied with family wishes and twin beds were bought, hence the single sheets for a newly married couple.

Then I remembered further back, to the time when Alice Katherine, four years widowed, aged came across to St Leonards on Sea, England, with her three unmarried daughters, from Arklow, County Wicklow, on the whim of a pin placed, with eyes closed, onto a map of southern England. Why choose such a curious means of deciding when she had a brother in Liverpool, who had six girls of his own – known collectively as “The Frodshams”. Perhaps because said Gerald Hugh was a son of the south, having been born to a family in Southampton who had been “county solicitors for generations”.

So I ironed, and remembered: remembered talking of all these things with Mum, who had talked of them with Ganna, who came across the Irish Sea. And the remembering was good, the ironing done in fine company. For such is the passage of family myth.

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