Quite apart from dealing with broken hearts, I am in a tailspin. My lovely in-laws are coming to stay on Thursday. Suddenly I am seeing the house in a whole new – deeply unflattering – light. Ye gods, what the feck am I going to do? Their house is pristine. Everything is in its place; everything matches. Yeah, sure, that’s just a taste thing – and I like the mismatched Bohemian mess of this place. But, for pity’s sake, their house gleams. And for sure, I couldn’t ever aspire to gleaming. But…clean? Clean would be good, right? I’d even settle for not filthy at a pinch.
Seriously, I don’t know where to start. Adrian is away at another beer festival, James is surfing at the beach. I am walking round the house with wild staring eyes wondering how it ever got quite this bad. There isn’t just dust, there are dust armies. Dust sculptures. Dust installations. I suppose I could apply to the Arts Council for a grant? There are festoons of cobwebs punctuated by dead things. More to the point there are fleas.
Yes, the house has fleas. The dogs have fleas. I have fecking fleas. Everything scratches. The dogs scratch. James and I scratch. The dust probably scratches too. Weirdly Adrian doesn’t scratch but then he just sneezes instead.
‘Bloody hay fever,’ he says. Bless him.
Yes, I’ve doused the dogs with Frontline. It doesn’t work.
The last time they came to stay (the inlaws, not the fleas) was over ten years ago. The house we lived in then was relatively normal (just stuck on a hill in the middle of Deliverance country – honestly, families round there were seriously…familiar). I had a cleaner; I had a gardener. The sheets were new, things were polished. I was still functioning in a vaguely acceptable way and cooked vaguely edible food. I was house proud. I subscribed to interiors magazines, for pity’s sake.
This is the first time they will see the house. It’s high summer, the sun is shining fit to burst and yet the mould is still playing at a series of variations on the Turin shroud on the bathroom walls. I have given up on the Loo of Doom, Cellar of Despond etc – and just shut the door firmly and put up a sign saying ‘Danger – Beyond Here Lie the Kind of Life Forms that Dr House Says Lead to Definite Death’.
The spare bedroom is now in what was my erstwhile office, hence packed floor to ceiling with books with titles like ‘Demonology’, ‘Psychic Self-Defence’, ‘The Sin Eater’s Last Confessions’, The Demon Lover’ and ‘How to Turn your Ex-Boyfriend into a Toad’. It is also the repository for all furniture which will not fit anywhere else so – apart from my mother’s old bed (antique, with suitably antique squeaking springs), it also contains a large sofa, a small weird wardrobe, a kitchen table and six chairs, a homeopathic medicine cabinet, a few occasional tables and an unconnected wood burning stove. Frankly, it’s a mess.
But hey. What can I do? Unless a small army fancies popping over and blitzing the place – or someone sends over a crack troupe of industrial cleaners, there’s no way I can get it fixed. So I may as well not bother. It is what it is. There are worse things in life than dust and fleas, right? In the scheme of things, who gives a shit?
I have friends, good friends, the best, who are going through real shit right now. Nothing I can do about it and yeah, that sucks out loud.
So, yes, I could clean like a skivvy on speed. Then again, I could sit at my PC and try a bit harder to get myself out of the total utter mess I’ve got myself into. But hey…who knows eh?
Who knows how long any of us have got? That interstellar highway could be coming through any second now. The Grim Reaper, bless him, could be readying his pointy finger just millimetres away from your or my shoulder. Soooo... I take me a bag of cherries and me dawg and I go…
…down to the river…