If two words could describe the women in The Stair the words would be Aye working.
Never mind Stephen Covey's management books of the past twenty years-the women in The Stair could have shown him a trick or two; they had to deploy wonderful management skills, ingenuity, stamina, resilience and character in raising their families; running their households; making ends meet with very little money; getting value for money at The Store (St Cuthbert's Co-op) and armed with few time saving aids.
There wouldn't have been a great deal of variation in their work throughout the course of the year, but the winter was probably the busiest of the four seasons and the summer, perhaps the easiest. Breakfast might have to be made for their husbands before they headed off to work-certainly Dougal Swanson was provided with a cooked breakfast of bacon and egg each morning. The younger children would have to be raised from bed and dressed for school.
Washings were time consuming without a washing machine-doing a washing by hand followed by putting clothes through the wringer was killer work, even before being hung up to dry on the washing green in the warmer months. In the winter, clothes needed to be dried inside-no mean feat in a small flat without central heating. Whilst back in the 1960s we had far fewer clothes and there was perhaps a lot less washing done, imagine what life was like for each household which averaged five in size, never mind the large Blades family-talk about Sysiphus! It must have been like a Chinese Laundry-washing and drying on an industrial scale!
|An overcast day, so no washing hung out today!|
Thereafter, housework needed to be undertaken and lunch made for those at home during the week. Messages of course had to be bought-without fridges this often meant visits to the shops on a daily basis. And come the evening, tea or dinner needed to be prepared. Not to mention taking one's share to clean The Stair. It was only into the evening that women might be able to put their feet up and relax in front of the box.
As we got older Anne, Iain and I shared some of the burden, particularly after Mrs Anne Hoffmann went out to work in the Civil Service after my parents divorced. Between the three of us we tidied the house, made the fire, did the messages and washed, dried and put away the dishes-we took a certain pride in having the place looking ship-shape for our mother arriving back home at tea-time. Iain has always taken a particular pride in being house-pwoud-even today if you call in to see him he's likely to be wearing his pinny which of course is kept spotless! In some ways, these were happy days for us at 6/2 with a good and much more relaxed atmosphere at home as the three of us were getting older too.
|Peter, Anne and Iain Hoffmann circa summer 1970|
One observation or reflection on the 1960s was the amount of stereotyping-whilst men had to be seen to go out to do economic work, women did all of the repetitive household chores-most men would rather be seen dead than be seen hanging out the washing-as one might guess this was another example of Ken Hoffmann being different-he was happy to be seen on the washing green-he didn't need to prove his macho-ism! I seemed to recall Mr Bowman 4/6 also hung up the washing too-he was a very fit bloke who used to play football for an amateur team and would even be seen going out running-unheard of for the time-whereas today whether I arrive in Edinburgh early in the morning or very late at night the streets are dotted with joggers, the majority of whom are women-such a radical cultural change from the 1960s-perhaps the housework burden is at last being shared? Or not!