…….My husband responds as I complain that I have writers block; that it is so bad even Dyno-rod or semtex couldn’t shift it and that I’m going to give up this blogging lark. I’m such a wee gobshite that he can’t believe that I have nothing to say and tells me “to get on with it” before he hurriedly kisses me goodbye and rushes out the door on his way to work. I’ve, tried but damn it, maybe if I leave things for a while something interesting might pop up and I’ll be off again writing like a demon, perpetually re-writing my prose in the search of the ever elusive perfect sentence. But, I can procrastinate for Britain, and would deservedly earn a gold medal for my efforts in the art of displacement activities.
I’ve never been domestically oriented in any way, shape or form and as long as I am alive there will always be a thriving small business empire in the guise of cleaners, gardeners, decorators and window cleaners. I refuse to lie on my death bed wishing I had done more ironing. That said, when there is a deadline looming, a difficult report to write or indeed a blog to compose there is nothing more distracting to me than the sudden need to attack a pile of ironing, to clean the cooker, (a job I completely detest), or to get behind the furniture and vacuum up those dust bunnies that have lain dormant for six months. Any old displacement activity will suffice in the process of avoiding what really needs to be done.
So here I am with an abundance of domestic chores to choose from which you wouldn't expect to have when we gainfully employ a cleaner. How so you might ask? Well in short, my cleaner hasn’t really embraced the concept that she is a cleaner and merely exercises the dust from one room to another on a weekly basis. I’ve tried leaving a duster wrapped around a tin of furniture polish in the hope that she will actually use it to trap dust rather than relocate it. But alas, her frequency in polishing rather than dusting runs to approximately once a month. On the upside, a tin of polish around here can last about two years. Early on in our ‘relationship’ I naively sat her down to discuss the possibility that she might like to consider a schedule of chores that she could undertake on a rota basis. “Perhaps”, I said smiling benignly at her, “if we set out what we would like you to do and in return you can tell us what you are prepared to undertake, we’d all know where we were coming from, domestic wise so to speak”. It was probably around this time that she decided we were a couple of gullible and intellectually challenged eejits who were deluded with ideas above our station. Only the village idiot would be daft enough to interfere in her working practices – for what they were. I had no doubt she would lose no time in tossing our names into a hat as ideal for the position of village idiot should the current incumbent relinquish his post. So what was the outcome of our little chat? She dutifully came every Wednesday, followed the same routine and left four hours later. I even paid her holiday money for the days she took as leave such was my need to hang onto her. It was clearly a sellers market and an inconsistent cleaner was better than none, I had convinced myself.
On the surface the house looked clean and tidy but on closer inspection there were tell tale signs that not all was as it seemed. The dust bunnies and cobwebs were all too apparent on the cat’s head as he emerged from his foray along the back of the couch. It was a trick he somehow perfected when guests were in residence. People say that animals have a sense of humour – this wee guy was a riot. I was ashamed to open kitchen cupboards as their contents would surely have given the Environmental Agency and their team of microbiologists cause to condemn us for harbouring plague inducing growths. It was months before we realised that anything that got in the way of vacuuming the bedroom carpet was duly flipped underneath the bed by her very deft footwork. It was a veritable treasure trove of missing shoes, a tie, odd socks, a pair of knickers, a wire coat hanger and a mug with a penicillin culture thriving beautifully in it - and everything covered in a thick layer of asthma inducing dust.
We muddled along year after year. We’d frantically run around tidying up the evening before she was due. She’d arrive the next morning and move the dust around, have two tea breaks and snaffle half a packet of bourbons before having it away on her toes with her financial recompense. The arrangement worked, after a fashion. We could live with it, we told ourselves. After all, she kept the place ticking over, we agreed. Once a month I’d do under the beds and every six months I’d spend a weekend cleaning out kitchen cupboards and running a wet cloth around the skirting boards for a laugh - not. I'd spend my lost weekend cursing her and her tardiness and my inability to redress the imbalance. Then things changed.
On a Wednesday she arrived, took off her coat and hung it in the hall cupboard. I heard the familiar click of the kettle as she popped it on for her first tea break of the day. I’d forgotten it was Wednesday and that she would be here. I was surprised that I had heard her at all for I was sobbing so very hard that it was almost impossible to breath. I was in shock and deeply upset and I tried hard to rally myself, to stop crying, lest she should hear me. I found that I couldn’t stop; that my heart was so shattered and in pain that I would probably never stop crying, ever. I sobbed behind my bedroom door; she busied herself shuffling dust particles around. In time I heard a gentle rap on my door. Without waiting for a reply, she entered and walked towards the bedside cabinet. Making a space between the mountains of soggy tissues, she set down a cup of tea, before turning to look at my hugely swollen red eyes and blotchy face.
“He’s left me”, I managed by way of an explanation. “I know dear” she replied, by way of acknowledging it. She sat down on the edge of the bed and wrapped her arms around me. Her kindness overwhelmed me and I convulsed and continued to sob even harder than I thought possible, because somehow saying it out loud, made it that little bit more real. She stayed with me until my tears dried; she made me wash my face and brush my hair and swap my damp pyjamas for jogging pants and top. She left with my promise that I would get out of bed every morning and do the same. She came back every day for a week to make sure I did.
I found kindness and sympathy and help that day. A lifeline thrown from the most unlikely of sources and from someone I didn’t know was a friend until I really needed her.