Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Laundrettes Revisited and Other Oddities

My short piece on the history of launderettes sparked by the Radio Four programme "Sud U Like" prompted a few memories from friends of mine. An old friend who now lives in Australia tells me the launderettes are still very much in evidence " down under"; she also has an unpleasant memories of the way things were in England in the 1980s:

They are still around here. Our local one is very clean. Not places you want to spend time in though. I remember them from many years of rented accommadation. Some launderettes were dingy and horrible others better but I am so very glad to have left them behind.

But by far the most interesting anecdote concerning launderettes comes from my friend Heather. She and her husband were holidaying not that long ago in Thailand. They were staying in Bangkok, but some way off the tourist trail. Outside the accommodation, at various places along all the streets could be seen large top loading rotary washing machines on the pavements. People would come along, put washing in the machine and coins in the slot, and come back in about half an hour knowing the time it would take to do the clothes. There was no need for a dryer. With the hot weather, inside or out, on a line, the clothes would dry quickly.

These machines on the pavement must have been an extraordinary sight and it was largely frequented by locals because this was away from most tourists destinations. Can you imagine going down the precinct in King Street and seeing large washing machines with people bringing and taking clothes?

Back in 1995, when Heather was visiting Haad Rin around the time of the celebrated Full Moon Moon party, there was another Bangkok oddity which sticks even more strongly in her mind. There was no mobile coverage in those days in that part of Thailand and no phone boxes for use of the general public.

Instead, if you wanted to make a phone call back home, you would go into an office and give the number to an operator who would know the destination for costs. She would dial the number for you. And she would also be there, hovering on the sidelines, while you were making a telephone call - holding a stopwatch. As each minute passed by, exactly on the minute, she would prod in the stomach the unfortunate person making the call so that they were aware of how long the call was taking. At the end of the call, the minutes counted would be used to calculate the cost.

Looking back on the telephone systems in our own island, it is a shame that unlike Guernsey we do not have a small but extremely interesting telephone museum opened to the public - or for that matter any display at the museum.

If you want to see the previous posting on laundrettes, it is at:

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