Thursday, February 2, 2012

Dear Susan,

Happy new year.Hope you enjoyed the holidays Guess what Ivan gave me for Christmas; yep, a cleaning lady. I don't know why; I'd dropped hints about things I really needed like knickers with elastic in them, a toothbrush with vertical bristles, or a pair of pantihose with the heels still intact, you know, little luxury items. But when my stocking was hung out three weeks before Christmas, it was filled with Freda.

Nothing makes a woman feel more redundant or filthy than a cleaning lady. For three days before she arrived I scrubbed, polished,vacuumed, and scraped the fungus out of the shower recess. I found things I'd forgotten existed like the pattern on the kitchen floor, the view from the kitchen window and the carpet in Eloise's bedroom. I threw out the dead orange which had been fermenting in the bottom of the fruit bowl, the dead goldfish which I thought had just been resting on the top of the tank and a dead television programme announcing the live telecast of the Royal wedding (Victoria and Albert's). I felt secure; even my mother would have trouble finding something to pick on , or up for that matter.

Boy was I wrong. Freda arrived carrying a large sack over her shoulders. "What's in the bag?" I asked her. "Rags" she answered. "A good cleaning lady always has many rags". Well that let me out; I wear all mine.

She took three steps into the house and looked around clicking her tongue and muttering "I love a challenge" A CHALLENGE??? What was she talking about? Unless you could count an unexpugated copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover as filth, my house was so clean it squeaked.

"I will wash the windows and you will wash the curtains" she snapped at me, and before you could say Mr Sheen I was bundling the curtains up and carting them down to the laundry. When I resurfaced seven hours later with the clean, starched, ironed curtains I thought I was in the wrong house. There was Freda rubbing linemant into her knees. "What's that?" I asked. "A skirting board " she said "you'll find them all around the bottoms of the walls NOW! Next week we will clean the oven".

I fell into a crumpled heap on the floor after she left. I'd never worked so hard in my life. I hung the curtains back up and thought ' I've just paid a woman good money to clean windows that I cover up with curtains.' The curtains remained open for the rest of the week.

Seven days to get the oven into a state fit to be cleaned; short of hydrochloric acid, I used every spray, foam, mist vapour and solution known to man. I found enough grease to do a complete service on two cars, but the result was worth it; for the first time I could see what was cooking through the oven glass.

This did not deter Freda. Come cleaning day she opened the oven door, disappeared into the rotisserie and emerged three hours lter looking like a coal miner. "There" she exclaimed "Like new" She was right. I will never cook in it again.

My life has changed since freda entered it. For a start Rosie, Josie and Eloise are not allowed to touch anything in the house for at least ten minutes after Freda leaves. They have learned to float from one room to the other without letting their feet touch the floor. I deny that I have threatened to chop off the hands of any toddler who touches a glass panel anywhere in the house. Wedon't use the bathroom, I make the kids stand under the hose in the front garden every couple of days and I use the YWCA showers.

Now I spend two days a week cleaning the house to make it ready for the cleaning lady ( it's called 'spofforthing '). The castle that I used to call home now looksas though it has been decorated in 'early sterile'; which is why I was surprised when Josie started coughing and wheezing last week. " I think you must have an allergy" I told her. But she assured me that she was lacking something in her diet. " Since Freda's been coming" she said "I haven't had my usual intake of dust. The cough is my body's way of telling me something is missing".

My hands reached for her throat then I heard a voice whisper ' Cleanliness is next to Godliness'.
Fortunately for Josie I had to let go of her neck in order to alphabetise the linen cupboard; Freda's coming tomorrow.
Love Janet xx