Thursday, January 10, 2013

Any Old Iron?

My greatest memory of Saturday nights in our Ringsend house is of my mother ironing in the living room.  Never a woman to rush out and buy the latest gadgets she quite happily made do with what, even then (mid-1960s), resembled an item which would have looked more at home in a glass showcase in the National Museum!  This apparent prehistoric object was in fact an iron made from real iron - now, I don't have to be a Mensa member to guess that this is how it probably got its name.  She had not just one but two for the simple reason that you needed two, one for working with while the other heated on the cooker, in our case, a gas cooker!  I was always terrified watching the blue flame curl around this rusty monstrosity, expecting it to explode through the roof at any given moment.

When mother had cleared away after tea she would place on the oval dining table her ironing paraphernalia which consisted of; a heavy piece of felt on which was placed several old sheets folded into a large square, all of which made for a wonderful deep, thick ironing board.  While this ritual was being carried out, the first iron was heating like billyo on the dreaded gas cooker.  Then, fast as lightning, when the iron had reached the required temperature and for the life of me I'll never know how she knew this, she would place it in its stainless steel shield, put the other iron on to heat then begin work on my father's shirts which would have taken precedence over every other item of clothing.  The trick with this form of ironing was in the speed with which you worked because the irons cooled very quickly.  I wonder now how my mother had such energy at the end of the day, it makes me tired just thinking about it!

I'll never know why she didn't just invest in an electric iron which would have made life so much easier for her but it was probably because of her fear of electric gadgets, she didn't trust them.  Hence, our household didn't possess what would have then been considered luxuries such as a fridge or washing-machine, mother preferring to rely on a tin box hung on our backyard wall to keep the food cool both in summer and winter and rolling up her sleeves each Monday morning which was of course, washday.

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