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  • For Grandma, pegging out the washing was a competitive sport. It wasn't her choice, but that was how it was in the good old bad old days. Women were judged by the time they got their washing pegged out on washday. Washday was Monday, and the aim was to get the whole lot pegged out and fluttering the length of the garden as early as possible.

    Unfortunately for Grandma, she lived next door to Mrs Atkins, who had hers out by nine o’ clock at the latest. Mrs Atkins had been a Victorian scullery maid who went into service when she was twelve years old, and she was seriously old school. Her housekeeping was impeccable. When the sheets were nearly dry, she brought them in and ironed them.
    Then she hung them out again to air.

    I can still see my Grandma, fag hanging out of her mouth, hanging up the washing along the seams. Not just one load (put laboriously through the twin tub) but three or four. Then she would raise the whole lot with the prop, like an admiral hauling up the flags on a ship sailing triumphantly back from a great victory.

    Then she would glance across the hedge at Mrs Atkins’ snowy display, and sigh.

    I was thinking today about the expression “pegging out” (as I pegged out my own wash) also meaning “dying”. I looked it up, and it has nothing to do with washing, but comes from the game of cribbage. My Grandma loved a good game of cards, too.
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