Housekeeping at Sea

From Ngaire’s Journal, 13th May 1958
Onboard RMS Rangitane II, En route for Southampton, England

The sea today is indigo, just like a tub of Reckitts washing blue water.
I have noticed the deck hands use electric scrubbers. Rangitane

In 1958, a time when travel was still something of a novelty,  my grandparents went on a ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe. They sailed out on the Rangitane, and my mother remembers them leaving, dressed to the nines with an extraordinary amount of luggage. Ngaire had a small suitcase just for hats (I have it now, and it’s not the hatbox you might be imagining; it’s a proper suitcase.) It was a glamorous time.

Reckitts blueBut while you can take a girl away from the housekeeping, you can’t stop her thinking about laundry. Not in Ngaire’s case anyway.

My grandmother was a very proud (and very competent) housekeeper. I remember her telling me, in her bustling sort of way, that all she had ever wanted was to ‘keep her own house.’ Privately, she considered that she had been dangerously late to marry (she was 28), and had worried she wouldn’t have the chance to be a ‘proper housewife’. I was a teenager at the time she told me this and was probably studiously disinterested (in my defence, you did have to be on your toes around Ngaire –  she was like a one-woman marriage agency). But now, as I read through her diaries, I can see what the rituals of housekeeping meant to her – how for her, the cooking and the cleaning, the making and the caring was so much more than a job.

I plan to write more about Ngaire and Gerald’s ‘grand tour’, but in the meantime you might be interested in these posts:

Battle of the Bulge

Over the Edge

Acknowledgement: I found the postcard of the Rangitane on Reuben Goossens’ site I suspect it’s the wrong ship (they were on the Rangitane II), but the water is such a perfect colour in this picture.

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