Be A Worker, Not A Shirker

window cleanerMy dad is a wonderful man. He has his faults, as do all men and women. He has even made one or two mistakes in the 36 years I have known him. But I have to take my hat off to him for his reliability, his faithfulness. Seven children to provide for. He just kept going up and down that ladder day after day. He never let himself get overwhelmed by his responsibilities, he may have had a grumble at times, but he kept doing what he needed to do and most of the time he did it with a friendly wink and a smile and a sweet little chuckle. I am sure I will share many wonderful stories about my incredible parents and how many lessons in life they have taught us.

Right now, I am going to tell you about one aspect of my childhood I am quite proud of as I look back. During our school holidays, we often had to go to work with Dad. Since I was born, Dad has been a window-cleaner. I have very fond memories. I remember having the job of carrying “the little ladder” and always had some “scrims” in my pockets (they were the cloths used for mopping up water from sills etc or for cleaning Georgian window panels). Dad gave us tasks so that we felt useful. During a day of window cleaning we might carry things, or wipe any sills we could reach, or hold back plants away from the window so Dad could clean them easily. Sometimes Dad would ask us to run ahead and ring the doorbell and when the house-holder opened the door we would politely tell them, “the window-cleaner has almost finished and he says it is £6.50 please”.

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Some of Dad’s customers have seen his little ones growing up. We were the most famous crew of window cleaners in the town – a father and three little girls invading neighbourhoods to leave windows sparkling. At the age of five or six, I used to wear red wellington boots and a green woolly bobble hat.  One day I lost my bobble hat and was very tearful about it. Dad allowed me to join him on the Friday evening when he visited any customers who had not been home that week to collect any payments they owed him. I asked every customer if they had seen my green bobble hat. Imagine my relief when one lady said she had found it in her garden and had recognized it immediately and had kept it safe until the window-cleaner came again.

ice-cream perfectionSome of Dad’s customers were very kind to us. They might invite us inside to play with their children, or sit us on their sofa and allow us to watch a cartoon film. We were well supplied by Dad’s customers with juice and biscuits.  They would even give us some money to buy sweets.  One lady gave me £1 and told me it was ice-cream money.  Dad crimsoned in embarrassment with my reply to his lovely customer.  I held out my hand and said to the lady “have you ever heard of a thing called inflation?”  Don’t worry…I now fully comprehend how cheeky I was!  At the time, I was just trying to communicate my frustration, because back then it cost £1.10 to buy a Mr Whippy ice-cream with a chocolate flake and raspberry sauce and sprinkles from the ice-cream van…which at the time was the highest form of ice-cream perfection!!!

I have known some friends and workmates who were from families who were clearly more comfortable financially than our own.  In some cases, a lot of emphasis had been placed by their parents on achieving educational results.  Some of my friends were never asked to lift a finger around the house, just to concentrate on their schoolwork.  Those are all fine things in a way.  It maybe that having more money, owning more possessions, accruing educational credits are gauges of “success” to many.  But my own definition of success has various other markers – learning to love, being a worker, not a shirker, qualities like kindness, respect, patience, loyalty, honesty being your qualifications, and very importantly…can you share?  Can you see that you are not the centre of the universe?  There is an amazing human family with an exciting array of things to teach you and who want to enjoy life and this planet with you.  The more you can share, I think the greater your potential for happiness.  It’s ok, it is never ever too late to learn.  Everyone can change their personality.

I am proud though that my Dad, and my Mum have taught all of us children to be workers, not shirkers. It is one of many valuable lessons in life I am deeply grateful for. We still gained excellent results at school, we were all in the top sets for all of our subjects and won the highest grades for our work.  I won several swimming trophies and medals.  I won a trophy for winning a maths competition for the school.  But school was just school.  Life was outside school.  We all had to help the house-hold run. Seven children! Lots of work.  I was an excellent dish-washer.  I also used to wash the family car each Saturday. As we grew older, more tasks were assigned according to our capability.

Almost everywhere I have worked, I have come across a diverse mix of workers and shirkers. It does often strike me that in some of the individuals I have met, there is such a sense of “entitlement” that has been fostered and sadly not a hard work ethic. An attitude of “the world owes me” and “I don’t need to get out of bed if I don’t feel like it”. And what on earth is going on with phones in the workplace? The workers are run off their feet trying to keep on top of the work that needs doing, the shirkers are unable to master their personal mobile phone addiction. I find it hard to understand. I wish everyone had the chance to go to work with my Dad during their school holidays and learn how to be useful. You see all sorts as a window-cleaner!!!

Life – some have had challenges and trials that have seriously marred their enjoyment of life.  But I do believe that for most people work should be enjoyable, working should bring some satisfaction. I love any kind of cleaning for that reason. Instant gratification, with very little stress. It also keeps you in great shape. I think I have become averse to certain types of work because I saw such rampant dishonesty practiced and such a mercenary spirit dictating culture. Sitting at a desk job is to be avoided because it will be bad for your physical health. I have done various types of work over the years. Each role gave me valuable experience and satisfaction.

SheepI have worked in finance, as a receptionist, administrator, legal secretary, gardener, cleaner, laundry, cook, driver, painter/decorator, I have cared for terminally ill patients and those with dementia. I have cared for ponies, chickens, pets, I have walked dogs – (£15 per hour for each dog in case you were wondering – and that was what the clients offered, I didn’t suggest that rate). My favourite job…we had to chase some sheep around a field and gather them into an enclosure. Then we had to turn them upside down on their backs so we could cut their toenails. Poor sheep! Although, it is important for their health apparently.

Then there is an even longer list of different skills I have acquired and tasks I have been assigned as a volunteer on various projects. The unpaid work I have done has brought me immense joy and has enriched my life.

I love variety. I love being outdoors. The thought of being chained to a desk all day frankly terrifies me. I love work. I am so glad my parents taught me to enjoy work, to be a worker, not a shirker.

Explaining The Magic Bin Emptying Fairy

In a few of my previous posts I have mentioned former single male flatmates who seemed to believe in “the magic bin emptying fairy”.  It seems I have caused a little confusion by using this term.

Well, some bloggers understood immediately what I was talking about, whereas others seemed puzzled.  So I am going to try to explain to clear up any confusion that lingers.

emptying rubbish (2)There are those flatmates, house-mates, even members of one’s own family or household who seem unawares of a supreme truth.  Someone, and by that I mean a human, not a fairy (often a woman, but there are some exceptional men) is actually behind what may seem miraculous or magical.

For example, Ella and and I were the ones who emptied the bins in our flat.  In addition to emptying the bin, we wiped the bin, the walls and the floor surrounding the bin.  The male residents of our flat seemed to go to further extremes each week in their  carelessness.  Coffee granules, tea-splashes, sauce stains and unidentifiable substances were smeared all over the walls, floor and the bin itself.

Now the boys…well, they never thanked us, they never thought to help by emptying the bin themselves.  If Ella and I were away, we would come back and discover the bin was literally over-flowing.  Ella tried to “enlighten” the boys…but they obviously were convinced that they had been specially chosen by “the magic bin-fairy”, whereas Ella and I had not been favoured by her.

It was not just emptying bins.  They seemed to believe in the magic dish-washing fairy, the magic toilet roll stocker-upper fairy, the magic fridge shelf wiping and mouldy food disposing fairy, the magic picking clothes up off the floor fairy…the list goes on and on!

I have laughed about it with Goldfinch.  He has two new house-mates at the moment who are clearly not particularly domesticated.

He showed me this video, of an Australian comedian who highlights this belief I have been referring to – there is a swear word at one point.  I like my site to be suitable for all ages, but this video…if you are under I don’t know which age, but just to mention it contains one swear word, just in case you are like me and feel shocked when you hear bad language.

Anyway, this brilliant video does a great job of highlighting the situation I have been referring to. If you believe in magic coffee-tables, magic laundry baskets, magic bin emptying fairies or any other household miracles or domestic magical occurrences – please feel free to ask questions and I will try to “enlighten” you.

 

https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2018/10/15/your-daily-word-prompt-brilliant-october-15-2018/

Stains…On My Conscience (An Ideal Tenant Confesses Her Hidden Secrets)

Home, House, Sink, Interior, DesignI have a confession.  It still weighs on my conscience after all this time because I suppose I did not do the strictly right thing…you know letter of the law and all.  Nope…it was definitely not right, because the old conscience still tugs at me and says “Naughty Girl!” I have not even told my beloved parents because they would have pointed out exactly what my conscience already knows.

I lived at home with my parents until I was 25. no 26…hold on, I think I am wrong again. I moved out of home six months after I had the the fourth and last in a row of surgical operations and I was finally given the all clear after a two year battle with illness…which means I was…gulp!  Am I really that old?

Let’s start on a more cheerful note…hold on if I was born in…how frightening it is that I am not sure of my own age?  Well what is age?  I don’t see why we should not live forever.  The most important thing is that I only have a handful of grey hairs.  Like my Dad…Dad is seventy…he is still a kind of dark blonde with the occasional honey streak and a rare grey hair…I would be so chuffed if I have inherited Dad’s hair genes and at the age of seventy am still mostly golden headed.  There is nothing wrong with silver hair.

Back to my shameful confession.  After I left home, I had several different forms of accommodation.* (SEE FOOTNOTE IF YOU ARE REMOTELY INTERESTED IN THE DETAILS)  But this is a story about the first time I rented a little flat and had to sign a twenty-eight page contract with a landlord.  It was kind of scary to me.  Looking back, there was nothing really to fear.  In fact I liked having such a clear understanding of the terms.  I do like rules…they make me feel secure.

Now, if you have been reading my previous posts, you will know I really enjoy cleaning, house-keeping, ironing and pretty much any “domestic” activities and practical work. Sorry to sing my own praises…but I am a dream tenant!  I keep my accommodation immaculate.  It’s just the way I have been trained.

But I have a confession to 20180601_192241-1make.  I have a stain on my conscience.  I have a secret that goes back to when I was newly in the little flat and had just signed a formal contract.  I was a bit nervous of my landlord.

So the incident that I am going to reveal occurred within a few weeks of my moving into the lovely little flat.  It involved a bottle of red wine.

I took the wrapper off the top and then plunged the corkscrew into the cork and twisted it tight.  As I was turning, something did not feel right.  The handles were not raising as they should have.

I realized there was something wrong with the cork.  It was crumbling.  The corkscrew was not effective in a crumbly cork.  So instead, I tried to dig the cork out.  Little by little it came out.  It was an excruciatingly slow process.

Then something truly awful occurred.  As I was digging out cork I did not realize that I was also pushing the cork down slightly.  There came a point when the pressure from the implement I was using pushed the cork right down the neck of the bottle and it crashed into the red wine.  It was so fast and furious I could barely take it in.  A moment later I stood there with red wine dripping down my face and all over my clothes.

sofaBut that was nothing compared to what I then discovered to my utter horror.  Red wine…splattered all over the kitchen worktops, down the cupboards and all over the sofa.  The sofa!!! Dark red spots.  I knew that was the urgent priority.  I doused the sofa with water…I was distraught.  My insides were in knots.  Thoughts of being evicted were racing through my mind.

After I had soaked the entire sofa…I knew I would have to wait for it to dry.  I then wiped all of the kitchen work surfaces, the cupboards, the floor.  Every time I stopped, I noticed more wine splashes and streaks.  I was really kind of tearful.

As for the wine bottle…I was so grieved by the catastrophe that had just exploded ruining my plans for the evening (which were to relax with a glass of wine) that I was at first inclined to pour it all down the sink.  I rejected that idea as I am such a penny pincher, I don’t like to waste anything.  I poured some out into a glass.  It was full of crumbled cork.  Aaaaah sigh.  So then I took out a large water jug and put a sieve over it.  I poured the wine out and most of the cork was trapped in the sieve.  But there was still little remnants of cork in the wine.  So I sieved it once more, but this time with some kitchen paper.  That seemed to do the trick, although I am sure some wine was absorbed by the kitchen paper.

I did not feel like drinking the wine though.  I was quite shattered by whatgirl dreaming had happened.  I decided I just wanted to be asleep.  That is what I did…I escaped my agonies by slipping into bed and drifting away into a state where I could dream happier thoughts.

The next morning I woke up and instantly remembered the sofa. I rushed into the kitchenette / living area where the sofa was.  I was filled with relief when I saw the sofa.  There were no wine stains anywhere.  I checked over every inch.  All of the red wine splashes had vanished.  The sofa was still a tiny bit damp, but I was sure that everything would be fine.  Aaaaah!  I was overjoyed that all my anxiety could melt away.  No eviction for me afterall!

I went out to work and forgot all about the incident with the red wine.  After a twelve hour shift I was pleased to return to my adorable little abode.  I made myself a light snack and poured myself a small glass of the red wine I had retrieved after the disaster the night before.  After I had eaten I lay down on the sofa to rest.

That is when I saw it!  Why did I not check the night before?  As I caught sight of the ceiling all my pain rose up within me again.  Huge streaks and splashes of red across the white ceiling!  I jumped up and climbed on top of the work-top with a damp cloth.  It didn’t help matters.  It just smudged and spread the red stains.  I could see that the only way to rescue the ceiling was with paint…white paint.

I knew I had seen some paint in one of the out-buildings.  I decided that I should have a look and see what I could find.  I had a little torch which I took with me as I crept outside and made my way into the outbuilding.  I had to climb over the lawn mower, tool boxes and step-ladders to get to the shelves with tins of paint.

paint tinsBy torchlight I looked through all the different types of paint.  There was a lot of gloss and wood stain.  There were oil-based and water-based paints of various colours and an impressive collection of shades of magnolia.  Could I find white emulsion paint?  Nope!  Then I started to wonder if my ceiling was pure white.  I came to the conclusion that it might be a just “off-white”.  It certainly was not a glaring white.  So I picked a paint at last, what seemed to be the lightest shade of magnolia on the shelves.

Back into the kitchen.  I did not have any proper paintbrushes at the time.  Normally if I was painting a whole ceiling, I would have used a roller  But I was hoping I could just patch up the the stains.  The only paint brushes I had were ones I used for dusting.  Well…one of them would have to do.

Well I had to put about six coats of paint on to the ceiling before the red stains were undetectable.  I hoped that the paint would dry lighter and resemble the rest of the ceiling.  Only…it didnt!

During the two years I was in that accommodation, nobody ever seemed to notice the big magnolia patch in the middle of my white ceiling.  Or if they did notice, they were too polite to ask.  I was too scared to tell my Landlord.  Pathetic I know!  I was young and very afraid.  They never mentioned it and I have never heard a word from them since asking me about the dark patch in the ceiling.

Whenever I have bought a bottle of wine since, I make sure it has a screw top…I don’t trust corks!

Aaaaagh…I may have “got away with it”…but I tell you the stains on my conscience over that red wine have still not washed away!  Perhaps this confession will help appease my troubled conscience!

___________________

*Firstly, I was a lodger.  My landlord and landlady did not ask me to sign any contract.  I gave them the money for my lodgings once a week and I also prepared a little receipt which I signed and asked them to sign so that there were never any disputes about whether I had paid.

Then I moved to a very beautiful home on a great country estate. That was all sealed on a handshake…we had a “gentleman’s agreement”…which we both honoured.  Then I moved into some accommodation owned by friends who also owned a country estate.  They too did not want to have a formal contract, they just asked of me a certain amount of rent.

Then I became a full-time volunteer…that was a bit like being in the military…basic accommodation was provided (aaaaaaaah happiest days of my life…and that is where I am going back to, once as I have had a clear CT scan!…I still have unusual swellings almost three years after that night in the park – I just keep telling them it is because I am so brainy!!!)  I have also had some other tied accommodation roles as a house-keeper in various private homes.

Housekeeping Memoirs

Yesterday…I had the whole afternoon off. I used it to clean every inch of my little nest. I enjoyed myself so much (yes that’s right – I LOVE CLEANING!) that I wanted to write a post about it. But instead I found one of my first ever posts and decided it was time to share it with you again!

Cleaning Equipment

If only everyday of housework could go so smoothly….Often you get everything together and enter the room where you are due to work….but low and behold: a leak from a water tank, or someone has accidentally flung baked beans or raspberry jam against the wall, or one time, I had a pair of legs sticking out of the door…turned out the occupant was feverish with some horrible infection and had been in bed with nothing but a sheet over him, he had got up to use the bathroom, and collapsed onto the floor – guess who was cleaning on the floor where he lived that morning!  So, I didn’t get to do any work because I spent the morning being first-aider and getting help so we could get him to a Doctor.  But today…aaaaah!!!!!….no disturbance, no interference, nothing has one wrong or slowed me down today.  Wonderful!!!!

ruiegdfhlahOh the life of a housekeeper!  I have had a very pleasant morning so far and had lots of time to think of you.  The rest of the day should be easy.  I have done so much work already in this house.  I am just going to give the kitchen a refresh and clean the big windows because there have been some children firing water pistols all week, so I decided to leave them until the last point before the family get back tomorrow.  Then I am going to clean the washing machine and tumble dryer out and clean the hoovers and just basically leave everything sparkling including my equipment.

As a housekeeper you see all sorts!!!!  Some young men seem to be oblivious to the horrors they leave for their cleaner / housekeeper to find.  I have been trained as a house-holder that if a toilet is in too bad a state, there is no need to clean it, and some house-keepers even leave notes to point to the fact that they are refusing to clean something due to a lack of consideration on the part of the occupant.  I am not too bothered.  I have cleaned medical facilities, sports stadiums, concert arenas…I have seen worse things in those locations than I have in a client’s own home.  I would rather just clean it and move on with my life than enter into the shame game or go into battle with an occupant / client.

Not Hear, Not See, Do Not Speak, FunnyDid you know housekeepers can play tricks on their occupants?  Not all of them.  It all depends on the rapport you have with your client!  We might deliberately turn all of the pictures upside down.  Nothing too valuable mind!  If an occupant has a shopping list or a “to-do” list stuck to their fridge it is very tempting to add comic items to the list.  We might move toys and unbreakable items and set up a comedy scene – as I am doing at one house I clean in the boy’s bedrooms (I have such fun rearranging their toys.  Last time I cleaned their room, I had one of the teddies reading an encyclopaedia, and a “my little pony” is chasing “Darth Vader”.)   The boys come home from school and they love to see what I have done to their toys.

But some of my house-keeping friends are really crazy in the stunts they pull…only because they trust their clients will laugh when they find out their house-keeper has pranked them.  One of my friends removed all of the lightbulbs from the entire apartment she had cleaned including the spares in the utility cupboard.  So, when the male occupants came back when it was dark – they had to use their phones to see around that night.

Housekeepers have used various props, including mannequins (the old chestnut of leaving a life-size figure in an occupants bed with just a blonde wig visible.  What else?  Malt loaf – don’t read this if you have just had dinner.  Malt loaf can be moulded into various shapes and left in the toilet and then a pretend note of outrage can be left – poor client!!!!  One of the worst housekeeper tricks I saw involved a pair of boxer-shorts and Nutella.  I am sorry, the details are far too gross to tell you the full story!!!

What else?  Housekeepers often show a lot of love by folding towels into flowers or animals, and folding toilet paper to look pretty.  We try to spruce things up wherever possible.  I must say I love to have a laugh with the girls but I couldn’t play any horrid tricks on any of my clients.  I am too worried about someone having a really bad day and being overwhelmed – a practical joke might seem fun and completely innocent – but for many years I have realized that some people are incredibly delicate / fragile and you don’t know….I mean how could you know?  We can’t read what is going on in someone else’s mind.  Instead, I often like to imagine my client or occupant has had a terrible day and is exhausted and stressed out and comes home to find their place is beautiful and sparkling and so much love and thought has been poured into the housekeeping of their home.

If you have a lot of love and a lot of giving in your heart, housekeeping is a wonderful role because you can pour love into your work. Personally…I love to make things sparkle. For that reason I especially love cleaning bathrooms and kitchens.

Kitchen, Cooker, Cooking, House, Eating

Spring Cleaning

They are back!!! The carpet cleaners that is.20180629_142156

My carpets are being cleaned today. It’s noisy work. My landlady thought it was a year ago the carpet cleaners came last. But I checked and it was actually last July.

Oh well. I had to pull out all my storage boxes from under the bed. Woah it was dusty under the bed! I have given the carpet under there a real good hoover and I am very glad it will be cleaned too.

I then started cleaning the wooden slats of the blinds throughout the flat individually, which took ages! I emptied cupboards and drawers and cleaned the insides and put the contents back in neatly.

It took so much effort to move my things from under the bed, that I decided to have a bit of a sort out. I took fifteen pairs of shoes to the charity shop along with six handbags.

I did not have the energy to sort through all my clothes. When the weather picks up I will, because there are a lot of summer clothes down there. I am sure there are clothes in there I won’t want to keep at all. But I need a whole afternoon to face the big sort out!

Writing about dust gives me an excuse for a song I have had in my head all week:

We Cannot Control The Movements of Kamikaze Squirrels

This was another e-mail to Stuart that I adapted into a post. But I wrote it while working for the family in Notting Hill that I was living with and working for:

Have you ever had one of those days where everything goes wrong?  You seem to have worked hard all day and accomplished precious little.  Despite the best made plans, your efforts are thwarted and your hard work is sabotaged even by the most unlikely of candidates.  “Looks innocent enough”, you might think!  Do not be taken in by the cute fluffy outer-shell.  This little one has made himself public enemy number one.

Kamakaze Squirrel

When I attended the interview for my current post, I was told that there were three or hour hours of work to do each day, and occasional child-minding.  They said “occasionally” they might need to ask me to do a “little overtime” and asked me to be flexible as work might vary from day to day.  They asked me to start at 8am.  But I soon realized that they had absolutely no idea of the time it took to complete the tasks they asked for each day. I have actually worked a few ten hours days so far, but they don’t seem to realize how much time the tasks they are giving me are taking. I thought that I was managing to get closer to completing my work within the suggested time frame the first two days this week. It seemed that I was roughly managing 7.30am-2pm – and then a lunch break followed by an hour of ironing.  It is essential to escape before every one comes home and wreaks havoc on the house!

But today everything has gone out of the window.  I still have three loads of washing drying outside, the big towels are on the tumble drier and a dark wash in the washing machine.  I am hoping to wash the lodger’s linen today and hang it outside while there is still some sunshine and then I really need to do a rag wash – I have a huge bag of used micro-fibre and buffing cloths that I need to put through the washing machine, because I am running out of cleaning cloths.

Nevermind!  It is just going to have to be one of those days.

I keep analysing my schedule and trying to work out where I can shave time off my tasks. I am a woman! I should be able to multi-task more effectively! I have sort of a game-plan. I try to have all of the ironing finished by the evening and everything is stacked neatly ready to be delivered first thing in the morning. For example, I might grab one stack and run up stairs to the top floor and deliver and at the same time make the beds and tidy/wipe the bathroom. I grab the laundry bag which seems to be always full and grab the bin liner and go down to the bedroom below. I make the bed, tidy/wipe the bathroom and grab the laundry and the bin liner and head downstairs to the utility room to start off the washing. Then I can head back up and ideally the family will be on their way out so that I can start cleaning up the kitchen.  After all of that I can start the thorough clean of a the entire floor of the house.  Five floors of the house, one floor each day.  Now in principle that sounds straightforward doesn’t it?

But life is unpredictable is it not!!!  Proverb for the day:

We cannot control the movements of kamikaze squirrels.

This morning the delay was as follows.  The nanny leaves the boys clothes out each evening so that everything is ready for the following morning.

However, today Dad was very concerned about his youngest, “It is so hot today the little one will be too warm in a long-sleeved school shirt, so could you find a short-sleeved school T-shirt for one of the boys?”  Well, I ran from the ground floor up to the second floor.  No other T-shirts at all on his room.  I run back down to the ground floor to deliver the message that he does not have any other shirts in his room.  I was asked to go back up to the second floor to check if there were any in his brother’s room?  I pointed out that if his brother has short-sleeved t-shirts they were unlikely to fit the little one?  Four years age gap between the boys. They wanted to give it a try.  So, I ran up to the second floor again.  His brother had three T-shirts but they are all long-sleeved.  I ran back downstairs to tell them.  They asked me  if there were any shirts anywhere else? Well, I guessed the other shirts must be in the laundry, even though I washed everything in all the laundry baskets and ironed everything I washed yesterday (three loads yesterday).  I ran downstairs to check.  There were five dirty school T-shirts in the laundry baskets.  Why had the two boys been through five school shirts in just one day? – I have no idea.  There were also three unlabelled T-shirts which were clean, but all  long-sleeved.

By now I had wasted 20 minutes running up and down stairs. The poor little one still had to wear a long-sleeved T-shirt for school.  Nothing has been accomplished, except I could possibly claim I have already burnt off all of the calories from my breakfast.

I headed back up to the third floor to start bed-making.  Only I heard my name being called.  I ran back down to the ground floor. They wanted to tell me that they were going to keep the front windows open to create a through draft.  Great idea!  I ran back upstairs.  Then I heard my name again.  The shopping had arrived.  Somehow, it has suddenly become my job to deal with the shopping, even though they say they do it themselves.  This is the fifth week in a row I have done it.  I am pretty quick at organizing shopping – it is one of “my things”. That’s fine, if they need me to do it, I will do it. So, I unpacked the shopping.  Only, it wouldn’t all fit in the fridge, so I had to carry a lot downstairs to the spare fridge in the utility room.

I was looking at my watch and realizing that it was over 50 minutes since I started work. I still had not made my first bed yet.  I headed back up to the upper floors. I made the beds, I wiped bathrooms and brought the laundry and the rubbish down.  I put on the first wash I headed up to the kitchen.  I was a whole hour behind schedule by now.  I would like to have cleared the breakfast and wiped the sides and emptied the rubbish already – but suddenly the nanny arrived.  Five minutes later, the lady of the house came home from yoga.  Yoga just happens to be the same time as the morning school run.  So while the rest of us are trying to bribe the children to put their uniforms on, finish their breakfast and make their was to school…she is meditating and stretching.

I was now working around them while they sipped coffee and discussed the arrangements planned for the day.  They are both super lovely and I had a little chatter with them both.  But there is always a little “oh could you just do this or just do that” to slow me down and it normally involves running up and down stairs in the process.  I decided there is no way I could just wait around to be able to do the kitchen properly, I would have to do that after they had gone.  Instead, I decided to start with the cleaning upstairs…

I was cleaning the children’s rooms today.  Of course, before I can really start cleaning, there is always a lot of tidying to do.  Toys, clothing items, books…they seem to be everywhere except they ought to be.  I might be imaging it, but it sometimes seems as if the boys go into their room and open up all the cupboards and drawers, and then pull everything out and throw their belongings up into the air to see where they will land.  I was still tidying and had not started cleaning their rooms, when I heard my name again.

I went down to the first floor master bedroom where the voice was coming from.  I could not believe my eyes! Yesterday, I had done a thorough clean of this room.  An hour earlier I had spent fifteen minutes making the bed and tidying the clothes that were left on the floor.  This time I really was not imagining it.  Somebody, (and it was looking very much like that somebody was the lady of the house) really had opened all of the closet doors and drawers and pulled out all of her clothes and shoes and bags and thrown them on the floor.

Ay ay ay!!! My parents forbade us from using expletives…but the thought that ran through my mind was not a happy one.  She was looking for some shoes.  She has possibly sixty pairs I realized last week when I cleaned the inside of her closet and re-arranged everything at her request.  I put the normal looking sensible shoes in the main shelves and the weird shoes (you know they types someone might want to wear for a fancy-dress party) on the top shelves of the closet.  She described to me the pair of shoes she wanted to wear, while I tried to hide the horrified dismay on my face.  I asked her if she meant the spice girls shoes.  She didn’t know what I meant.

Well, tell me, if someone asked you to find shoes that are red, blue and white, with sequins and with a platform wedge…how would you describe them?  When I originally saw these shoes, I thought they were hideous, but I concluded they must be part of a “Ginger Spice” fancy dress costume.  Apparently not, I discovered today that they are the latest creation of some sensational designer – of course she would know about these things since she works in the fashion industry.  After I had found the shoes, I had to put everything back into the drawers and wardrobes.  Then back upstairs to clean the rooms on the third floor.  I still had not cleaned the kitchen after breakfast.  All the washing needed to be sorted out.  I was not sure when, or if, today was ever going to end!

Well….this is life…this is house-keeping!!!!  I am telling myself to get on with it and deal with things calmly and not get flustered but see the funny side of things.

The “funny side of things”…and now we come back to the squirrel…he looked innocent enough didn’t he?

…I had just finished for the day – everything was looking immaculate and I turned the lights off.  I was heading downstairs to take a quick shower before I went out, when…..CRASH!!!!….I turned around and my jaw dropped.  A kamikaze squirrel!!!!!  It had just done some kind of “Fosbury flop” and a triple somersault.  As it had done so, it knocked off several plant pots from the wall.  Now there was broken pottery and soil all over the patio and some of the plants had come right out of the pots.  The squirrel (who must have had some kind of a death wish) was outside the window staring in at me!!!  So, I had to fetch the broom and start sweeping up the soil and re-arranging the plant pots.

This is life! – things will crop up won’t they!!!  We cannot control the movements of kamikaze squirrels.

I am going to head out for a walk as soon as I have finished.  I am going to take my sling-shot, or perhaps my bow-and-arrow and try to find that squirrel.  My aunt Judy would love a new fur hat!

You know I am joking right!

In Honour Of House-Keepers

Have you ever had a cleaner or house-keeper tidy and clean up either your own home or your work premises? If so, do you ever think about how often they might be “going the extra mile” for you?

For around about five years, a house-keeper came into clean various flats I lived in with flatmates. Because we were all working so many hours, it was great to have a house-keeper. We had some wonderful house-keepers.

Our first house-keeper was tiny, but she had the loudest laugh. She left house-keeping, which was a temporary job for her, to return to her work as a solicitor. The next house-keeper we had was juggling house-keeping with her work as a professional photographer. She worked at weddings, parties, and many other public events. She also had a great talent for portrait photography. Then we had a house-keeper who was from the same area as my parents now live, but had recently married and moved to London. Formerly, she worked as a personnel manager, but I believe she set up her own business once she felt settled in London. She was immaculate, boy did we know when she had been in! After her was a Spanish house-keeper, who was also a pilates and aerobics teacher. She had quite an amusing stretching routine before she started work. I know she went back to Spain with her husband, because she was terribly home-sick. Then we had another house-keeper for about a year.

Now this is a strange thing: I cannot for the life of me remember our next house-keeper. Ever since I received head injuries I have holes in my memory. It is an odd thing. I rejoice in how many memories I do have. It is one of the reasons why I feel writing is so good for me. I love what I can remember and feel rather excited when I can remember something in brilliant detail. But I find it strange when friends and family realize that there are some events and some people that I have no recollection of at all. Especially those they say were a very important part of my life.

Anyway…my post today is about appreciation for all house-keepers do, that you might not realize they do. We always showed appreciation for our house-keepers, who we were aware were regularly going the extra mile and tackling things we did not expect them to. We regularly left thank you notes and a gift, or even a slice of cake we had made, to make sure they knew we had noticed and were very appreciative of their thoughtfulness.

I have at times worked as a cleaner/house-keeper. I KNOW, I truly know the unexpected horrors that a house-keeper might come across. As a house-keeper you face the decision as to whether to deal with something inconceivably gross or leave a note for the occupant to draw their attention to it! 99.9% of the time I would tackle it myself. There is only one situation I am not brave enough to deal with myself, and that is something like a dead mouse. I cannot do it!

I could tell you many many stories of both the hilarious and horrific of house-keeping for other people. I think I may have shared a few stories already:

But today I wanted to concentrate on house-keeping or cleaning a business premises like offices.

It is hard not to notice the difference in the various standards of tidiness of the employees that occupy desks. Some are absolutely immaculate and it is so easy to clean their desk. You look for little ways you can say thank you, like twirling their phone cord neatly, or turning all their pens the same way round in their pen holder.

Then at the other extreme are the desks that you are afraid to touch, because it look as if the stacks of paper and files might all go flying. I do love it when the owner of one of these desks leaves a note saying: “Dear House-Keeper, Please do not clean this desk”. It makes me laugh, because that is the type of desk it is impossible to clean anyway. But thanks for the note!

Now I was chained to a desk for over eight years when I worked in finance. We were not allowed to leave our desks in that state at the end of a work day. Nor were we allowed to leave confidential information on display. But many businesses I have worked for seem to have a fairly lax attitude to tidiness and confidential information being on view to someone like the cleaner. We were not allowed to leave dirty cups and plates. Our personal belongings, like photos and little bits and bobs that we might have on our desk to cheer us up, were to be kept tidy and they were our responsibility to maintain. But I have worked for some companies, where I spent the first hour collecting cups and glasses from desks and washing them, before I can do anything else!

There are some things that I have seen and been in a dilemma over whether to clean or not. There was one desk that I always dreaded. When I first started working there, I decided to throw away all the mouldy fruit in a bowl on the person’s desk. But I noticed the fruit was replaced and then over the next few weeks it gradually mouldered away again. It kept on happening, so in the end I decided if this person wanted to buy ornamental fruit and watch it turning blue and fuzzy I was not going to participate in this farce anymore! There…I could not bring myself to remind you of what mouldy fruit looks like, you might be eating breakfast. So here is fresh fruit instead.

I was told that the inside of the staff fridge was not my responsibility. Indeed there was a sign on the door reminding staff to sort out any items that belonged to them each Friday. One day I opened the fridge because there seemed to be some juice leaking…I removed the juice, and then as I looked up, I saw a container with some food that seemed to have been long since abandoned, and had now become a curious scientific experiment.

Then came flowers. Once they had well and truly faded, they would stay in the vase for weeks. My supervisor told me not to touch them, because apparently one house-keeper had chipped a vase when trying to be helpful, and the desk-occupant had been furious. So I did not touch them, but I was baffled at these shrivelled up flowers sitting in putrid water for weeks.

Then there were bins. I had forty-eight small bins to empty (under desks) and the kitchen general waste bin and the recycling bin. The staff didn’t wash out their food containers before throwing them into the recycling bin, so the inside of the bin was splattered with soup and sauce.

But it was the bins under desks that took ages to empty. There were three of those bins that I used to dread. They were always overflowing with things that should have been put in the recycling bin in each office. Only I couldn’t put the papers in the recycling bins now that the desk-occupant had thrown coke, ketchup, and crumbs all over the papers. Not only were those three bins always over-flowing, there were also items of rubbish all over the floor under the desk. So it took longer to empty the bins because I had to crawl under those desks and retrieve all their crisp packets, banana peels and nail clippings.

Yes nail clippings! Because that seems like the most sensible place to clip your nails, in the office in front of your colleagues. Nail clippings are not the worst of what I have discovered under desks.

Well, there is a definite limit to the horrors I am willing to share with you. I don’t want to make you all feel ill! But if you have a house-keeper or cleaner who cleans either your home or your workplace, bear in mind that they may be often going above and beyond the call of duty and tackling horrors you may not realize were there.

So…for all those “extra miles” your house-keeper may be going, a thank-you note or a little token of appreciation will keep your house-keeper sweet and happy to keep tackling the unexpected frights they might come across.

 

 

 

 

 

Queen Of The Cleaners

Imagine being assigned the task of training thousands of young single men everything that they some how did not seem to learn at home. To be fair, some of the young single men were already proficient with domestic tasks, but an embarrassingly large number had not the faintest clue of what to do to in the clean and tidy department.

Now who could take on a task like that?  A very special lady affectionately called Auntie Margo by those thousands of young men!  She was the undisputed Queen of The Cleaners for decades!

For almost sixty years Margaret’s assignment as a full-time volunteer was training young people to be fully domesticated and useful so that they can be sent anywhere in the world and will know how to look after the accommodation they are provided. (Her first assignment had been in the kitchen where she cooked and baked for the volunteers). She trained them in all the tasks that were required of them if they wanted to remain in their career as full-time international volunteers.

Auntie Margo was strict.  She made sure those boys took their responsibilities seriously. Notes would be left to remind a young man if he had not done something.  If a young man was careless and neglectful on a regular basis, they would be reported to the accommodation manager.  He might have “a word” with them. If the young man still did not improve their habits, then the accommodation manager might have to ring the supervisor of the young man while he is at work (for example the young man might have a volunteer assignment as an electrician or a carpenter/joiner or a job in accounts or in the huge kitchens or in the garage as a mechanic) and explain that the young man should be asked to leave his work assignment and return to his accommodation immediately where Aunty Margo would meet him and give him a refresher training session in the domestic tasks required of him and the state to leave his room in when departing for work!

I think it was a fantastic arrangement!  Can you imagine if that was practised universally?  Being at work and having your boss approach you with the order that you need to go straight home and make your bed and empty the bin and pick your clothes up off the floor and then return to work at once!

Tasks included:

  • Making their own bed in the morning
  • Emptying their bins/recycling
  • Wiping their bathroom sink clean after washing or brushing their teeth
  • Using squeegee/cloth to wipe down their shower screen and tiles after showering
  • Washing their dishes, drying them and putting them away
  • Wiping down and drying their kitchen sink after using
  • Keeping their room tidy, free of clutter
  • Folding/hanging their clothes and putting them in drawers or in their closet
  • Cleaning/dusting/polishing/hoovering/mopping…all the basics of house-keeping!

Now some of the young single men had left their family home and were struggling to get used to life in London so far away from their family and friends. They may have been shy or lonely.  But there was always at least one person looking out for them and making sure that if they needed to talk, she always had the door to her house-keeping cupboard (which was an office and storage area) wide open.

I know many men now in their forties and fifties who say that when they first moved to London, it was Aunty Margo who made them feel welcome.  They made frequent trips to visit her and gobbled slices of fruit cake and guzzled tea while she listened to their challenges and gave them encouragement.

When I moved to London to become a full-time international volunteer, Aunty Margo was still working as a volunteer despite being in her nineties!  She no longer trained new volunteers, but she was one of a team of sixty house-keepers who she had been involved in training.  Each new volunteer is still trained by a house-keeper so that they know what is expected of them and they still have to take those responsibilities seriously.

In my third year as a volunteer working in an infirmary, we started to receive phone-calls from night security to say they were worried about Aunty Margo. Sometimes we would go down to the reception area at one o’clock in the morning and Aunty Margo would be working away with her feather duster and microfiber cloths polishing the glass tables.  Or she would be in the dining room at three o’clock in the morning waiting for hundreds of other volunteers to arrive for breakfast.  We kindly and tactfully helped her to realize the time and suggested she might want to rest.

Aunty Margo was showing the first signs of Alzheimer’s. Over the next two years it became obvious that it would be helpful for Aunty Margo to have more support. She moved into the infirmary and was assigned a team of carers to make sure she was safe 24-hours a day.  She is very energetic and powerful.  She loves people and conversation.  She loves singing and dancing.  She loves baking and knitting and drawing.

We had lots of visitors coming to check up on the incredibly popular Aunty Margo.  Even more memorable were the trips out of the infirmary (which were almost daily).  In nicer weather we often went out for a drive and went to animal parks, shops, garden centers, cafes or we took Aunt Margo to visit the house-keepers she adored.  But we took her to other locations.  She went to visit all the maintenance team (electricians, plumbers, joiners), she went to visit the gardeners, she went to visit the accounts department, the legal department, the garage full of mechanics.  She always caused a riot!

What a woman!  She brought all work to a stand-still as everyone wanted to come out and see dear Aunt Margo.  She loves people! She has the most fantastic sense of humour and it was gorgeous to see her laughing and joking with a big group of men, she would throw her head back and let out huge guffaws of laughter! And she would sing, and then everyone would sing!  The entire finance department would be swaying while they sang along with Aunty Margo!

This was her favourite song!  We have produced a video with hundreds of volunteers singing “Your Are My Sunshine” to play for Aunty Margo whenever we wanted to remind her of how much she was loved!

But Aunty Margo doesn’t seem to become down-hearted.  She is still going strong, a bundle of energy and fun, who loves people and loves life!  We like to take a feather duster when we go out, because she still wants to feel she is useful.  So whenever she can she will start dusting and polishing.

All of her efforts and hard work over the years are very much appreciated.  But more than anything it is her bubbly, vivacious, fun-loving, musical, warm-hearted, generous character that along with her dynamic energy has made her one of the most popular and loved volunteers.  I could share many many stories about her…I am sure I will share more (just keeping an eye on the length of this post) for almost every day with Aunty Margo was memorable!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beware Of Your House-Keeper!

Did you know house-keepers can play tricks on their occupants?  Not all of them.  It all depends on the rapport you have with your client!  We might deliberately turn all of the pictures upside down.  Nothing too valuable mind!  If an occupant has a shopping list or a “to-do” list stuck to their fridge it is very tempting to add comic items to the list.

KIMG0039But the real fun is with a family who own toys.  We might move toys and unbreakable items and set up a comedy scene – as I am doing at one house I clean in the boy’s bedrooms (I have such fun re-arranging their toys.  Last time I cleaned their room, I had one of the teddies reading an encyclopaedia, and a “my little pony” is chasing “Darth Vader”.) The boys come home from school and they love to see what I have done to their toys.

I was cleaning the children’s rooms today.  Of course, before I can really start cleaning, there is always a lot of tidying to do.  Toys, clothing items, books…they seem to be everywhere except where they ought to be.  I might be imaging it, but it sometimes seems as if the boys go into their room and open up all the cupboards and drawers, and then pull everything out and throw their belongings up into the air to see where they will land.  I was still tidying and had not started cleaning their rooms, when I heard someone was calling my name and asking for my help yet again.

I went down to the first floor master bedroom where the voice was coming from.  I could not believe my eyes! Yesterday, I had done a thorough clean of this room.  An hour earlier I had spent fifteen minutes making the bed and tidying the clothes that were left on the floor.  This time I really was not imagining it.  Somebody, (and it was looking very much like that somebody was the lady of the house) really had opened all of the closet doors and drawers and pulled out all of her clothes and shoes and bags and thrown them on the floor.

Ay ay ay!!! My parents forbade us from using expletives…but the thought that ran through my mind was not a happy one.  She was looking for some shoes.  She has possibly sixty pairs I realized last week when I cleaned the inside of her closet and re-arranged everything at her request.  I put the normal looking sensible shoes in the main shelves and the weird shoes (you know they types someone might want to wear for a fancy-dress party) on the top shelves of the closet.  She described to me the pair of shoes spice girls shoesshe wanted to wear, while I tried to hide the horrified dismay on my face.  I asked her if she meant the spice girls shoes.  She didn’t know what I meant.

Well, tell me, if someone asked you to find shoes that are red, blue and white, with sequins and with a platform wedge…how would you describe them?  When I originally saw these shoes, I thought they were hideous, but I concluded they must be part of a “Ginger Spice” fancy dress costume.  Apparently not, I discovered today that they are the latest creation of some sensational designer – of course she would know about these things since she works in the fashion industry.  After I had found the shoes, I had to put everything back into the drawers and wardrobes.  Then back upstairs to clean the rooms laundryon the third floor.  I still had not cleaned the kitchen after breakfast.  All the washing needed to be sorted out.  I was not sure when, or if, today was ever going to end!

Well….this is life…this is house-keeping!!!!  The brigade of no-nonsense Anti-Dirt, Anti-Mess, Anti-Trash warriors.  I am telling myself to get on with it and deal with things calmly and not get flustered but see the funny side of things.  Can you blame us for occasionally playing tricks on our occupants?

Photo credit: The Haunted Wordsmith

https://thehauntedwordsmith.wordpress.com/2018/07/24/worth-a-thousand-words-8/

https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2018/07/24/anti/

Wonderful Wednesdays

It is Wednesday afternoon.  This is one of my favourite times of each week.  It is my own personal house-keeping day!  HAPPY PLACE!!!  I clean, wash and iron all afternoon.  (On Wednesday morning I help my landlady with her shopping and gardening and sometimes do some cooking for her.)  By the time I have finished, my ickle abode is sparkling.  I love seeing it super glossy and ready to invite anyone in.  I don’t live too far away from the Queen.  I am sure she would be honoured to visit this little nest after I have polished everything up.  After finishing all my work, I reward myself with a luxurious soak in the bath tub.  If it is early enough, I look for something on BBC i-player or ITV i-player to watch until bedtime.  I am hoping to squeeze in an episode of Poirot tonight.  Sometimes a glass of wine might be part of my reward…but not in recent weeks, as I am trying to be strict with myself so that I can lose a bit of puppy fat.  I want to be as almost perfect as it is possible for my beloved Goldfinch.

Say it with me: “ONCE ON THE LIPS….FOREVER ON THE HIPS!!!”  Do they call that a mantra?

I am a methodical and thorough house-keeper.  I follow a set route so that nothing is missed.  I have a schedule for work that does not need to be done every single week.  “Projects” that are either scheduled for once a month, once every two months, once every three months, or once every six months.  I don’t vacuum my mattress or soft furnishings, or clean the inside of cupboards, or defrost my freezer every week.  They all have set times on my house-keeping schedule.  I genuinely enjoy cleaning.  I have worked with an amazing group of house-keepers who trained me in their methods and showed me the most useful pieces of equipment to use.  I limit the use of chemicals and prefer natural products including vinegar.

I cannot tell you how good I will feel later today when everything has finished.  The elation of gratifying contentment and the comfort of knowing I did what I was supposed to and my parents would be so proud of me.  I have cleaned most rooms.  I am just about to have my dinner and then afterwards I will clean my kitchen area.  I have recently changed the order I clean.  Before, I used to start with the bathroom, then move onto the kitchen and then the bedroom, study, halls and lounge area.  Then I would make myself some dinner (making a mess in the kitchen again and still be left with a stack of ironing with a full tummy that just made me want to snooze.  I realized it was not working.  Now I do the ironing after I have cleaned the bathroom and put all of my clothes and bed linen away before I clean the other rooms.  I leave the kitchen until after I have had dinner.

Kitchen

It makes so much more sense.  Above is a photo of my kitchen area (I have just moved the toaster and kettle and other items onto a little table so it is easier to clean everything.) Super easy to clean.  It won’t take me long, and then rewarding myself can begin.  You might be able to spot some food splashes…but remember, I have not started cleaning yet.

Perhaps one of the best things about Wednesday is bedtime.  I never tire of slipping into fresh bed linen and breathing in sweet lily scent.  Aaaaaaah!  One of the most delicious events of the week.

Well, I shall delay my kitchen cleaning for no longer.  The sooner I start, the sooner I can enjoy that blessed feeling of “My work is done here, I can put my feet up and relax”.  One of the lovely things about life, work and then relax with that snuggly hug of a feeling – satisfaction.  Everything is good!…as someone very famous once said…several times…