Category Archives: Cleaning

What Thoreau said

I had three pieces of limestone on my desk, but I was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily, when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still, and threw them out of the window in disgust.

How, then, could I have a furnished house? I would rather sit in the open air, for no dust gathers on the grass, unless where man has broken ground.

From ‘Walden’

The life of a tinker’s cur…

…is a tiring business what with having to leave hair all over the upholstery and mud on the seats.

Tools of the trade

The only tool I could claim to have any conversance with is a computer. Beyond that I can just about deal with a screwdriver, an allen key, or some kind of gardening implement, but it always an interaction fraught with potential disaster.

I have had two run-ins already this morning: one with the hoover, and one with the hairdryer.

I don’t really dry my own hair with a hairdryer. I see other women using the things quite adeptly; they do stuff to their hair with serums and mousses and things. My hair is mainly always the same only because I know no other way. I thought, for a while, once I had children, that having a different perspective on the hairdrying process might uncover new potential in me as I dried their hair. It did not.

This morning, with minutes to spare before school, the youngest appeared with wet hair. There was nothing for it, the hairdryer would have to be employed. Mindful that I had knocked my bedside glass of water in the night all over the extension board I use for my panoply of plugs, I turned the hairdryer on, half-expecting an minor explosion.

We were ok in that respect, but it was not long before I was swearing mightily because I had sucked a huge chunk of my own hair into the back end of the dryer (one end blows, the other sucks, in case you were wondering). The smell that it created is acrid and took me right back to the days when I used to regularly get my hair caught in the back of the hairdryer.

Those were the days when Norman Lamont couldn’t stop raising interest rates and I had a mortgage that doubled practically overnight. The hairdryer that I had then had had the back casing smashed off somehow, so the fan that makes the suck and blow was exposed. It was therefore understandable that I was constantly getting my long hair caught and wrapped round the back of the fan. I persisted with the contraption, perhaps enjoying the element of risk to start the day with, I can’t remember. Then one day, I caught not just my hair but my fingers in the fan and cut them into a bloody mess.

Nearly in a faint, I staggered over the road to a neighbour called Ron’s house. He was an 80s sales executive and had not yet left for work in his company car. Ron had a very particular way of parting his hair and his fringe arrangement was definitely no stranger to hair styling product. He seemed just the person who might have what I did not have in that particular emergency: plasters.

As it turns out I have run out of plasters today too. There is still a Ron up the road who might have them, in fact I am sure he would, but he is an elderly gent with a spaniel called Honey and has no need of hairstyling or products. Even factoring in that detail, it rather seems to me this morning the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The hoover is another story. It involves a Phillips screwdriver, a recalcitrant retractable lead and some paracetamol.

4 Billion: it’s not enough

That’s 4 Billion IP addresses for the whole world: the IP being a set of 4 two or three digit numbers that your computer or internet-connected device uses to route all the information to it’s door. Without them the whole shebang wouldn’t work; like a homing pigeon with no loft.

Anyway the current system doesn’t include enough possible numerical variations to go beyond the original 4 billion arrived at so, a bit like they had to change the London telephone codes from 01 to 071 and 081 as more and more impertinent people wanted a phone line, they are going to have to start changing the format of new IP addresses from four sets of number variations to six sets. Otherwise they will run out next month…

Oh how my poor nerves are wracked by the very thought of it.

I wonder who came up with 4 billion in the first place? Did they even consider China: population 1,341,750,000 or *India:1,198,003,000. What the hell those two numbers are in words, I’ve no idea. Anyway, whichever eejit settled on 4 billion (4,000,000,000,000) it was a bad day at the office for them, and they should be sent to stand in the corner to think about it.

That's about 5 per person I reckon

*India’s population predicted to exceed that of China’s by the year 2030.

Steptoe’s Yard

It seems to be the rule in this house that if there is work going on in one room, there will be uncontrollable overspill into the others.

The dynamic duo of plumbers are back this morning; look what they left overnight and they weren’t even working in this room.

On another Groundhog Day note I just popped into the garage to buy a sack of coffee beans and some petrol.

“All together?” was the opening gambit. I was on my own and yes, shockingly, I did want to combine the two items on the same receipt.

They don’t let you away so easily in that gaff: “Do you want a hot drink with that this morning?”

*screams silently*

Everything but the kitchen sink

Is what the two plumbers brought with them today (and that was only because I already had a handful of those).

I took this photographic proof whilst they popped out “shopping” and this was only the half of it. You would never believe the muddle on the floor earlier. Still, it’s all progress innit.

The Stairs

This is the scene that I came home to yesterday. Our *neighbour (who runs a carpet cleaning company) was just leaving. He was giving me some aftercare instructions which I can’t remember and then said to me something about wearing slippers as the carpet was a bit damp. He then looked at me hard, and stopped.

But of course you don’t wear slippers he said

I half-started a mumble about the boots I had on being my notional slippers, but as I had just returned from a dog walk in them and they were sopping wet I shut up.

In my mind, I was throroughly damned.

*Our street is stuffed full of lovely and useful people: a chippy, a hairdresser, a butcher, a publican, an imam, a youth worker, artists, a GP, a childminder and of course yer man who has done a great job on what was probably a very filthy carpet.

I love my pets but… (title shamelessly plagiarised from Old Stokie)

I have spent the night with the dog pinning my legs down and the cat perched on me as if I were the shed roof on a sunny day.

Then there is my one wish about pets: to be free of their hair. Actually, that’s my one wish. If a fairy ever visited me and offered me wishes I wouldn’t want money or endless wishes, I would just want to be an anti-magnetic device for animal hair. When I had dogs to begin with in my mid 20s I went through rolls of sticky tape weekly. I could not tolerate a single hair on my clothes. My mother is the same now. She has two dogs, but you wouldn’t catch a stray pet hair on her. Not in a million years. I think she does a lot of hoovering.

Now my “standards” have slipped terribly. My two measures are to tell the girls not to roll round on the floor (hairs in their hair) and I usually give the settees a quick bash with a hair-covered cushion before I sit down. Then the dog comes and leans all over me anyway, leaving my left arm covered in cream hairs. The cat hair is worse, it can sort of float around in the ether before coming to rest where you don’t want it.

Once I bought some magic US scraping device in New York that was meant to easily get hairs off upholstery and so forth. It did not. So this is my mother’s top tip for pet hair removal: scrape affected areas whilst wearing a rubber glove. I have modified that slightly and find that a quick scrape with a Havaianas flip-flop does an excellent job too and you don’t even have to bend down. Except I can’t use the method on the cashmere cardies.

Further notes from The Reluctant Consumer

That’s me. If I was going to start another blog it would be called that. I have previously blogged a bit about being fleeced by the utilitymen whilst I sit innocently on the sofa and, probably like you, find that facet of my helpless consuming continues unabated. If only that were all. I am also forced out and about from time to time to confront the coalface of consumption, otherwise known as: a shop.

I am not big on shops. I have worked in a few and I was not big on customers when I was behind the till either. Being not big on shops, or indeed the verb related to them, I have to go in them far more frequently than you might think. My tolerance levels are so low (on the floor in fact) that I can only bear to shoot in and out with a hand basket. The spoils this garners clearly does not feed a family of four for a week, so I am back in, usually the following day on a repeat mission. My fickle nature additionally sees me tarting round a smorgasbord of purveyors of foodstuffs and other consumables, wherein I refuse to join their loyalty reward programmes. This because I know these doing you a favour, fool schemes are also aka collecting intimate information on you and your dependants. I remain, in my mind, under their radar.

To maintain this elusive status I like to work the aisles haphazardly, doubling back on myself, charging up and then down and then up the central aisles. I start with bakery and work back to the veg. I go in and buy coffee and than wend my way back to the carrot soup. I am a smash, swerve and grab shopper.

Except sometimes. Those are the days when I am on a go slow. On those days my trusty psychological armour against supermarket trickery slips and lets in a chink of their consumer manipulation and then I find I can’t escape. I may look like I am frozen in time, staring at a product for far too long, but what I am doing is trying not to fall for their tricks. This kind of torture usually coincides with having over-indulged the night before. The other weekend I got trapped in this manner in Sainsburys. In a state of confusion and overwhelm (I’ve made it a noun now – that’s what happens if you spend too long in a supermarket) I could have easily sat down in aisle 12 and cried. You see, in that staring moment, I am fighting a losing battle. I have blundered into their House of Mirrors without knowing what I want and I am consequently highly susceptible to their BOGOFs , their 3 for 2s, their fake alcohol discounts (hair of the dog obviously) and their random rubbish near the tills like ¬£3 DVDs. The crazy staring is merely evidence of my internal effort to fight the good fight and only spend a tenner instead of the practically obligatory redback.

Don’t suggest online grocery shopping either. Booking a delivery slot is too traumatic (amongst other things). The page doesn’t refresh in real time and the van icon that you had set your heart on vanishes into thin air when you want to commit your Wednesday evening to an evenings all-weather racing and waiting in for your baked beans to arrive.

Anyway, last Sunday, because I was trapped in a supermarket for a very long time, trying to decide on dinner, the store announcer permeated my brain. You really notice these announcements in Sainsburys because there is no piped tuneage. If you like a bit of music whilst you shop, go to the Co-op or Asda (although there’s nothing edible in the latter they do have their own radio station). Returning to Sunday in the Supermarket (it’s not Smollenskys on the Strand is it?), this is what I heard (more or less):

Would all suitably trained staff please go to checkouts to support your colleagues?

It wasn’t a command, it was bit more of a plea. I knew the staff member that I had seen with the pink feather duster dusting the crap off the crap on the central aisle, near the seasonal shit, opposite dairy where only the lactose intolerant won’t venture, wouldn’t be going to support anyone. She clearly had only received training (mandatory) in the ways of the duster. Neither would the Customer Service lady in the extraordinary wig be going either. She never, ever leaves her domain where people queue to ask dopey questions about their Nectar points and to return stuff they never needed in the first place.

Was there a stampede of other Sainsburys staff to the checkouts? There was not. And when I arrived there, with my trolley (no energy to carry a basket) I did not find half-fainting checkout operators in need of urgent support either. I just found the usual Sunday scene: a load of other hungover people queuing to buy sustenance and some rubbish DVDs and the papers. And in a neat twist, my till operator delayed my alcoholic transaction, not to check I was over 21, but because she needed someone to check her selling thereof because she was… Let’s hope this management style doesn’t find it’s way into the armed forces.

Would all suitably trained soldiers please head to the front in Afghanistan to support their colleagues. Unless, of course, you are busy cleaning your musket. And if you are under 21 can you bring someone else along to authorise your shooting people and people shooting you back.

I find I am increasingly irritated with the cost of that campaign, or war or whatever it is. We just can’t afford it can we? Not when a bunch of crap on a Sainsburys Sunday costs fifty sodding quid.

There’s more, but I think you’ve been trapped in these aisles long enough.

Easy like Sunday Morning (not)

Hobble downstairs on stiff and twisted foot. Wonder why this happens

Make tea x 1.5. Thankful to have remembered the youngest insists on putting her own sugar in and I have averted being roundly abused. Feed dog.

Am informed by half a cup sugared tea drinker that there is water, “possibly wee” on the floor under a chair in the dining room.

Mop floor, notice badge-pressing hand is sore.

Am informed by same informant that Edgar the Guppy “may be dead”. Feed fish, guppy unresponsive. Anxiously prod fish alive. Think I might cry with relief.

Drink tea. Am despatched to make coffee and get extension lead. Am informed that two extension leads have been broken in the last month by myself or my mother. Am also reminded I have not yet “fixed” the upstairs televisual feed to bedroom. Retort that I have no vested interest in this.

Draw coffee drinker’s attention to my horoscope: You might get so angry at someone who is being obstinate today that you could lose your temper.

Impervious to zodiacal warning I am admonished for serving coffee in the Arsenal mug (oh I knew what I was doing). Am informed that the morning’s viewing (downstairs, remember no feed upstairs) will be Tweenies with half a cup as no desire to relive the Gunners baffling (yet predictable) dismal display.

Open cupboard-under-stairs, take out extension lead, chip loose football over Henry hoover and quickly shut door before it rolls out again.

Hide upstairs with laptop and incontinent dog. Perhaps they will forget I am here.

Life is like this in the morning: lots of potential, but blurry round the edges.