|Different application, same atavism|
Traditional “woven” laundry baskets go back a long way. My 96-year-old Grannie had one and I have no reason for thinking they didn’t predate her. But more than that bare fact, such artefacts shed light on the development of technology and the cost of labour. For one thing they reflected a period when virtually all home-laundered materials were dried by hanging them out on a line. Thus even quite poor families required an appropriate (ie, perforated) container for transporting wet stuff out into the back yard.
These days plastics is the logical solution. But, then, cheap plastics hadn’t been invented. Labour was cheap, hence the “woven” basket. Theoretically a woven basket would now cost a lot more than a plastic one but this wouldn’t allow for the fact that these days machines can weave. There’s a philological point here. We still call these things “baskets”, but it’s an imprecise – perhaps unsatisfactory - word when referring to plastics, even though some plastic laundry baskets are moulded criss-cross fashion that echoes weaving.
As if some people can’t let go of the past. Leading to practical oddities. My in-laws had a gas-fired open-hearth installed, with plastic shapes electrically lit to suggest the embers of a coal fire. Yet they were not well off. Sometimes they would sacrifice “real” warmth for “illusory” warmth by switching off the gas fire and making do with just the illumination.
I can’t say I like laundry baskets. I see them as emblems of the Monday mornings on which my mother used “to do the washing”. For some reason which I cannot explain I found laundering a depressing ritual even though I wasn’t directly involved in it. The detergent had a pungent smell which irritated my nasal passages. Even as I write, that smell…