My Beautiful Laundrette

The rarified damp Mancunian air and numerous waterways were historically beneficial to the manufacturing of threads and garments. Hence the development of the cotton industry in the nineteenth century, whose entrepreneurial godfathers we needed to thank for the great stone warehouses on the likes of Whitworth, Portland and Moseley Street. It was in those basements we shuffled around to Grandmaster Flash and The Smiths through the nineteen eighties and in later decades on whose upper floors yuppie types landed themselves inner-city crashpad conversions. But enough of all that social history bobbins. A miracle to me at the time was how Janice not only coped with putting food on our table, but also handled the clothes-washing requirements of six young men to whom she was not blood-related. Six boys who ran around a lot, sweated a great deal and generally would have created a pile of filthy garments enough to make any Victorian cotton magnate twirl his moustache in consternation. I’m sure there were laundrettes nearby but her looking after our cleansing needs was part of the deal. And, I have no recollection of ever feeding her washing machine. We just left the clothes out, and as if by magic they were returned. She didn’t do ironing though students have little need of pressed clothes unless they are preparing themselves for Grab-a-Granny-Night at The Ritz or collecting pots. Even that went on in the gigantic Watts textile warehouse which was transformed into The Brittania Hotel in the early eighties. Naturally three nights of beer stains and emptying ash-trays meant my white shirts needed a lot of attention, so ironing became part of the evening ritual which went with the job. Janice’s efficiency at this operation was astonishing and in all my five and a half years there, I cannot recall losing a single item of clothing. Having said that, I did inherit a pair of powder-blue underpants which I wore for a couple of years longer than was possibly desirable. They belonged to ‘RGB Jones’ (he’d been to boarding school and they had a little name-tag sewn in). What the hell. They were comfortable and a nice little reminder of him. ‘Manchester, this famous great factory town. Dark and smoky from the coal vapours. Work, profit and greed seem to be the only thoughts here’. (Schopenhauer, 1830)

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