Modern flats have something missing. In apartments across the land, from luxury to Dovecot, there’s nowhere to dry washing. Some very strange assumptions were made when designing and managing buy-to-let newbuilds. Many prohibit drying laundry on the tiny balcony. Tenants are different; they never sweat – but fragrantly, they glow.
It’s worse in developments completed more than five years ago, way before the energy price hike made everyone so keen to economise (oh and also save the environment.) It’s still assumed that we are cash-rich and time-poor, so desiccate our clothes in money-guzzling washer-driers, when actually we roast our socks over the heater, which is dangerous. Rooms are small, with airers crammed between the sofas; bad enough for solo renters - a nightmare where two or more people share.
When I worked in welfare rights, it was widely, and rightly accepted that drying laundry in the living area causes respiratory problems. In poorer rented homes, central-heating is often either absent or unaffordable. I’ve been offered badly insulated flats with just a temperamental Calor gas heater in every city I’ve visited. It’s a fire hazard, and leads to soggy clothes mouldering when the meter runs out.
In olden days, houses were sensibly fitted with drying-racks suspended from the ceiling. Nowadays, I am rendered senseless with nostalgia as I recall ‘gardens’ complete with what were known as ‘clothes-lines.’ In shared housing, laundry left to rot in the washer is a flashpoint for many a senseless killing spree.
Forward then to the recent past, when planners understood the basic human need for clean underwear. In social housing, communal drying areas were placed at the top of tower blocks, for maximum exposure to the elements, which sounds like a good idea.
But there was a major and appalling problem, worse than the obvious snag of having your lingerie snaffled and suspecting the neighbours. It was this: significant numbers of people jumped to their deaths, so the drying rooms were closed.
In case you think Nice Heights (should I call it Naice Heights?) was made in paradise by nymphs, there is one snag, which I only noticed after moving in. We have loads of cupboard space for gadgets, crockery and food, but unbelievably there is no draining board. Perhaps this is evidence of what I hoped was an urban legend. Those blokeish architects assumed that we hip urbanites wouldn’t do anything as basic as cook and eat at home, so there’d be no disgusting dirty crockery (in fact I’m amazed they supplied us with toilets, since we are too marvellous and grand for that sort of thing.) It takes days for one person to fill the dishwasher until it’s economical to use.
In upmarket flats, tenants perch on their Eames recliners counting their Alessi, and (having returned from some chi-chi new restaurant) they gaze around with satisfaction, appreciating all they have amassed. Then, as they negotiate their way delicately around the washing, which is drying, slowly and precariously, on an array of rickety clothes-horses, a thought occurs: those Mr Men knickers are starting to look a bit shabby.