Thursday 15 April 2010

Keeping house

When I was small, there were intractable rules about keeping house. Beds must be made with sheets taken from the bottom of the pile or, in better regulated households, sheets fresh from the wash must be placed in the airing cupboard underneath those already there. At some very early point in the household's rule-setting, a decision must have been taken about which. Heaven forfend: if both methods were used, however inadvertantly, the same sheets would be constantly in use and wear overall would be seriously uneven. There is indisputable sense in this, but the nice lady who comes to help my arthritic hands with various tasks that require a degree of flexibility I am now rather short of, gives me one of those 'I've -got- a right- one-'ere' looks when I explain this proceedure, and, I suspect, puts the sheets where it is easiest to get them out of her hands. Why do I suspect this? Because there is one sheet with inky evidence of my having done the crossword in bed that keeps coming round far more often than its real rotation should allow. Another test is to do with humidifiers. It is built in to my way of being in the world that dry air is bad for you. (I guess that the Welsh have to believe this. By and large, the ambient air in Wales could not be described as dry). Anyway, with the advent of central heating, largely from what, in those days, we accurately called "the Continent" and from our American cousins, dry air became an ever present concern. The remedy was to append a humidifier. In case you are quite prepared to live with dry air and don't need truck with such a thing, a humidifier is a sort of jar with a hole at the top of it for a hook. Filled with water, you append this contraption to your radiator. The water evaporates in to the air and there you are, saved from the unmentionable effects of dry air. The test of good house keeping is whether or not all your humidifiers are consistently filled with water. Many an hotel in a cold climate has been crossed off the five star list because the humidifiers were empty.

One of the - many - difficulties about being 75 going on 40 is in reconciling what was with what is. I am unfailingly self-conscious when I say "continental Europe", obediently bearing in mind that I am also, on my island, living in Europe. Few people have time or inclination to furnish themselves with humidifiers, let alone traipse around with a jug filling them up. (I hasten to say I did do this even when I was working, so there.) The other Mother-proof test is light bulbs. Do you dust yours? No? Well, you would be more ecologically sound if you did so, since more light will get through, than if you use those don't-get-me-started-on-them energy saving bulbs. Hygiene is another issue. I have what is politely called a galley kitchen. As you know, this actually means there is room for only one person and a cat in it. If you are very fond of another and he/she is slender, you could manage two at a squash and worth the contortions if you would like him/her to mash the potatoes or drain the spinach while you make the gravy. There is totally and absolutely no accommodation for a bin dedicated to food waste. Even if there were room to change things round for it, in less than a day it would smell like a ripe durian. I know it risks showing off, but the stench of that Eastern fruit sampled when I, in another life, wandered through Malaysia trying all the delicacies offered, comes back to me in every evil nightmare my mischievous inner world dumps on me. As it happens, if you can hold your breath and swallow at the same time, the durian tastes very nice; it's not exactly nectar, but the diametric opposite of its smell. What enemy it is conditioned to ward off, I can't imagine, but it must need that smell for something. The point of this is to express my horror that I am going to have to separate my food waste from the rest and keep it in a bin of its own until the ONCE FORTNIGHTLY refuse collection. Is this good house-keeping, I ask myself. In my childhood home the rubbish was collected daily. Things are'nt what they used to be. I'll be back.

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