” The pulley line extends from a hook on our building, across a courtyard, to another hook on the opposite palazzo. In order to peg out the clothes I have to lean out from our fourth floor window. The ledge is at the level of my hips; this places the central point of gravity rather lower in my body than feels secure and means that hanging out the washing, that most mindless of operations, is accompanied by a nasty fluttering in the stomach, a vicious tingling in the fingertips and a distinct sense that the distribution of weight could shift at any moment so that I will topple headlong down into the bleak little walled garden of my neighbour….”
– Polly Coles in “The Politics of Washing Real Life In Venice”
When I was growing up in the southern California of the 1950’s my mother did our washing with a wringer washer and hung the laundry out in the back yard on a series of lines that looked like they were strung between two small telephone poles. My sister and I loved playing in between the sheets and towels and nothing smelled like laundry dried in the sun.
Maybe that is why I have a fascination for the laundry lines of Venice. Here in the States where I now live we have rules and we hide our laundry. No one has a line outside and it is written into the rental agreement that you will not hang your laundry from the balcony.
My camera on every visit to Venice seeks out the colorful washing of my Venetian neighbors.
If all goes well one day I may have my own washing line in Venezia, the City of My Dreams. Or I may have one of those incredibly complicated by too many choices in Italian combination washing and drying machines.
In the meantime I grudgingly make the trek across the hall to the coin op washer and dryer that eats a roll of quarters much faster than should be humanly (or machinely) possible.