Thoughts on teaching, technology, learning and life in an era of change.
Hung out to dry
May 10th, 2008

Can my friends in the United States please confirm the following for me ~ Are backyard clotheslines really banned in some states or cities? Is it simply a local council edict or recommendation? I was amused to read about this in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning.

I wonder if there are similar regulations in some of the newer gated communities and elitist suburbs of Australia? Anyone know? When I lived in an apartment here in Australia residents were not allowed to hang out washing on their balcony as it would make the building look ugly. I was on the top floor so I could get away with it. Only visitors could see that I was breaking the strata rules of the estate [The body corporate of this estate annoyed me. One year I collected as many proxy votes as I possibly could from absent landlords. At the annual general meeting I voted myself in as President and Treasurer of the estate's body corporate organisation and simply voted against a number of the more contentious and costly proposals. The busy-body clique that used to 'run the show' were not amused.]

In the article, Getting pegged for letting it all hang out,  Ian Munro, reporting from Connecticut, writes how it is illegal to have a clothesline in one’s backyard in some parts of the United States. Attempts to have clotheslines legalised have failed as some residents are fearful that property values will drop.

Mr Munro writes that “Electric clothes dryers represent about 6 per cent of domestic power consumption, according to official estimates, and while the world searches for responses to global warming, Mrs Vocke points to her backyard, wind and solar power.” This brought home to me the usefulness and intrinsic value of the old backyard clothesline.

A quick bit of research revealed that clotheslines are clearly not illegal across all of the USA. This colourful site, Mrs Clothesline ~ A Celebration of Clothesline Culture, features a gallery of clotheslines with titles such as Shadow Line, Pretty in Pink and Midnight Love.

Clotheslines are a feature of the backyard here in Australia. Some of you may be familiar with the Hills rotary clothes hoist, invented right here in Australia. We used to hang from these as kids while a friend or sibling spun you around at high speed. It was a great way to demonstrate centrifugal force and also gravity for the smaller children. Are you reading this Dan? [Centrifugal force is not a real force apparently. I learnt something new today.]

Our rotary clothesline, sans clothes, with a kookaburra on the lookout.

Well, the anti-clotheslines brigade in other parts of the world would need to get used to the backyards of Australia if they ever moved here and I wonder how they would cope with the clotheslines of Singapore and Hong Kong? The clothing poles that project from beneath the kitchen windows or laundry areas of the high rise residential buildings cannot be missed.

Laundry drying, Singapore.
Photograph by OtoPhoto. Some rights reserved.

HDB flats with clotheslines, Singapore.
Photograph by ton2fig. Some rights reserved.

HDB block, Singapore. Some rights reserved.

The clotheslines in Singapore helped to break up the lines or form of the buildings and always added colour to the environment. Quite often they were the first indication of a change in the weather as the first hints of a breeze caused the sheets to flutter to and fro. It was always fascinating to watch nearly all of them disappear from view as the rain clouds approached.

I am not too sure what is the point of this blog post. Shao Ping and I hang out and collect the washing together. We also rush out to save it when a storm blows in. Do you have any interesting or colourful clothesline images from around the world?

3 Responses to “Hung out to dry”

  1. 30 second tour of a Singaporean new town Says:

    [...] my previous post regarding clotheslines I referrred to the high rise residential buildings in Singapore. This reminded me of a little video [...]

  2. Gilbert Halcrow Says:

    As an 18yrs gone Ausi (last 10 in HK) I sometimes long for the air dried freshness of a good old Hills Hoist. Still you can always throw in the ‘smell of Australia’ dryer towels to get the essence of a childhood lost.

    My great regret is that my daughters will never acquire the skill of knowing when to let go of the Hills Hoist at various velocities; so as not to fall on the various cemented sections amongst the grass of the classic Ausi urban back yard.

    Now that was applied physics

  3. John Larkin Says:

    Thanks for the comment, Gilbert. That is one of life’s pleasures… the smell of freshly sun dried washing.

    I was always careful when placing the drying poles in their holders outside the kitchen windows of our flat. When you are nine floors up there us no room for error. I dropped a pole draped in a sheet once and it landed on the washing poles of the flat below. We went downstairs, apologised and collected our sheet and pole.

    Your physics lessons as a child certainly had an incentive to get it right… concrete. Colliding and then bouncing off the concrete could have provided a lesson on kinetic or potential energy I guess.

    Presently in Singapore one must cover the pole holders with a cap so that rain water does not collect within and inadvertently create a breeding environment for the Aedes mosquitoes that spread the dengue fever virus.

    Cheers, John.