Deep Clean Launderette goings-on

I remember, I remember……

There we were all few of us talking about pre-washing-machine days and launderette activities in a round then hanging out our words to dry,  courtesy of a yellow washing line strung up across from one pillar to another in a yellow neon lit humid scented place. That launderette in Beulah Road, Walthamstow, by the Village nay in the Village, has been there for yonkses. deep cleanEvidently when the long-time owner died her funeral cortege began from the very door of the laundry premises. She did live there, my research informs me! Today it’s a place of business and activity with a whole mix of people and languages.

This was a creative writing workshop, with the Big Society clingers-on possibly engaging with the community through  reminiscence  in a relevant but unusual venue. I believe it was all part of “Words Over Waltham Forest”.  Not even a cuppa tea. I say that because we were there partly to reissue the notion that once upon a time launderettes were social hubs, vis á vis East Enders, Dot Cotton and action in a small room. And because a cuppa would have been a nice gesture for seniors who’d come together on a damp November morning from the neighbouring parish of Leyton to share memories and words.

It was a bish-bosh affair and we finished early after self-congratulation and much mobile photographing after we’d scribbled relevant words about laundry and starch and all of whatnot onto sweet-smelling and new ‘smalls’.

deep 2kleenThe two hours was too short a time in that we never really had time to mull over the words and let the flow begin. Knees aren’t the best desks either. Clipboards would have been useful. As a group we just imposed upon a neighbourhood space. It was interesting to see that the customers were in their own worlds and not even interested in what we were up to. Because washing is what it is, a chore to be done whether today or back in the fifties over the mangle. I never ever experienced launderettes as social hubs myself. East Enders ain’t real, Peggy!

Up Your Street subscribers were there. Which other outfit was promoting the free workshop from  creative  writing business professionals besides Up Your Street. The day was dank; the launderette was humming.

I enjoyed refreshing some phrases from back in the day, for example, clothes horse, line-prop, drying rack, drip-dry, top-loader, starched collars, and ” It’ll all come out in the wash”. Maggie reminded us of the story of The Magdalene Sisters and Fitzroy gave a great account of wash day in the West Indies.magdelane laundry

Forgotten it all by the evening.

Yeah, but I was there.

I went to a  weekly crafting workshop; I was the only participant. So not the first time I’ve been alone, trapped by good manners such that I’d stay until the session end.  In the local paper write-up, you’d think I’d been joined by hundreds.

I went to a poetry workshop and waited for more participants. I read aloud to myself.

I’ve been along to projects, taken along Up Your Street subscribers and then read on websites  how Age UK instead of Up Your Street was credited with rallying the troops. Age UK kept stumm.

Yesterday I went to a Capital Age Festival 2013  free art event and four others came. Six had signed up. Six from a whole Capital’s population, mind you. But I was there. Along came a passing woman with foul breath and matted wig an hour late, took up her scissors and glue and asked what we were doing here. I had asked myself the same but reeled off the usual reminiscence, oral history and coming together in the community mantras.

In the late afternoon I debated with an intelligent octogenarian friend, who’s seen it all,  the quality and definition of the Big Society and saw her disappointment at the fact,  known universally,  that the University of Third Age (U3A) has been taken over by the middle class. Those people who just wanted to stretch their brain without waving an ancient degree certificate are out of the margin of the margin.

Meanwhile in comes the glory of Birkbeck’s pre-degree course in art appreciation specifically targeting people without formal education. To boot, it takes place in Stratford east’s fair city next to The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in a new Birkbeck campus. Imagine. The University faces an annual  recruitment challenge. No Big Society outfit wants to use precious advertising resources promoting another outfit’s enterprises so unless Birkbeck goes overboard into the community no-one will know what’s on offer. That is of course where Up Your Street comes in generously. Last year Up Your Street co-erced  seniors to enrol and pick up bursaries to learn to learn all about art. They make up 50% of the intake.

Get the picture?

Nag’s Head in Walthamstow Village

Well, I jus’ don’t know! How do people put up with non-welcoming staff?  I said to myself, “Let me find this pub that everyone ..IN THE VILLAGE raves about”. I’d taken the W16 from Leyton up to Shernhall Street and remembered that there was that hail and ride (if you’re lucky) W12 bus that sweeps through the backyard of the Village.

The driver dropped me off just next to the afore-mentioned glorified pub. The back garden was packed. (“Nobody works then? “as Jezza would say.) The staff never even acknowledged me, a stranger to their bar. It wasn’t as if they were busy; people were hogging one glass for an hour. Maybe the sour faces from the bartenders meant they just didn’t want to be there. But I just don’t get it. A local gets bumped up. Everyone wants a piece of the action and then nothing. It happens again and again. A venue is revved up and then the front of house staff just make you wonder why you made the effort. Exceptions are notably Stratford Picture House E15 , the Hackney Empire and BSix male reception staff. Good examples of front of house disdain are Rich Mix, (no smiles there and chewing gobs), my doctor’s surgery, Sassoon in Brooke Street up West, Age UK office in Dalston Junction, Hackney Museum, Lea Bridge Library, Hackney Post Office in Narrow Way e5, ward staff in any NHS hospital..any!..aah and so many more.  Civil servants are reknowned for their lack of expression, disdain or not. Still adopted the CSA name though so who trained yer, baby?

You know, front of house employees are often labelled as CSA Customer Service Assistant. They could well be unpaid interns who long lost their passion to be part of The Big Society and/or are those who stay on in the job until something better comes along and you’d think that would be in a couple of years. So the long-termers are still there AND as miserable. It could well be that as a senior I am invisible and so they are just rude or nasty by habit  as they keep their faces to their screens, hearing my polite voice coming from the backside of their computer . But people half my age get the same treatment. Don’t worry. I haven’t started on the attitude of bus drivers up and down Lea Bridge Road.

I am used to the alarmingly frank ignorance from CSAs but cannot understand why we put up with it.  I did ask for an audience with the owner of the Hackney Post Office shop knowing I was wasting my breath. I had six months earlier complained to the Post Office big guns and they said they would look into everything from the attitude of staff to the mess on the floor. Looking and doing eh?  So the owner of the shop told me that the staff have so much abuse from the public. So what? Most folk are just wanting a little bit of human service and why should they suffer because of some other customers’ frustrations , madness or anger? William Hill Management trained me well enough to deal with rude and spitting men old enough to be my dad and at the same time I could make sure that the normal well-behaved person gave over their money  knowing that I was giving the best of my service. Never was I trained to look at anyone as less than human altho I had my diddly doubts.

I’ve seen medical reception staff talk so rudely to non-English speakers in particular. Not every immigrant lives in a caravan.Everyone needs to be on a GP list so the vulnerable and the polite know not to answer back as that will be construed as violence towards the employed hallowed ones. No witnesses will bother to come forward as the receptionist has her moment of triumph, throws beige records on the floor and stamps her stiletto-ed foot.

The Hackney shop owner didn’t impress me at all. Ebay should set up its own Post Office then many of us wouldn’t need the Post Office at all. Passports you say. How come we are European in UK but still have to carry an UK passport to travel to Tenerifé and beyond? Why is the sky blue? So many Apps and I’ll have my answers.

I know a lady who had her baby by Apps. Her waters broke so she Googled for extra information, checked the Apps from Mothercare and downloaded the breastfeeding Apps too. No need for wise old sages like me anymore.

Nuff said about Nag’s Head.