Julian puts the rubbish out, if I ask him to. I doubt if he knows when the bin-men are due and I’m sure he doesn’t know whether it’s general-rubbish-week or re-cycling-week. Once a year he goes on-line and does my tax return for me, he’ll vacuum downstairs or upstairs if I ask (occasionally) and has been known to dust his own bedroom – if given a duster. Once in a while he empties and refills the dish-washer and he has been known to cook his own meal, as long as it is a “ready-meal” which he can put in the microwave. If he’s not doing anything else, he will take me to the supermarket and – given a list – will go around one end of the shop gathering up things we need. He makes me a coffee, if he’s having one and, most evenings after dinner, he’ll say: “Let me know when you want a coffee,” though he knows I usually don’t because I feel a bit guilty if he’s watching a programme or doing something on his laptop. (Ready meals are for nights when Julian is going out early and needs to eat before he goes. I am not keen on eating at five thirty and he is quite happy with ready meals!)
A typical day
Julian gets up before me, gets washed and dressed and goes downstairs for his breakfast. He goes to the cupboard, takes out the cereal of the moment, finds a bowl, a spoon and the milk and sits down to eat. Because I’m taking amitriptyline in order to prevent a return of the dreaded sciatica, I tend to sleep late – but, as the doctor asked when I complained about it some years ago, “Does it really matter?” the obvious answer is, “No, it doesn’t really”. I may get up at eight or nine or even ten in the morning unless I have something important to do then I can force myself to get up earlier. I wander down still in my pyjamas at whatever time suits my sleep pattern and have my cereal, fruit and coffee.
Then my day begins. I go upstairs to wash, dress and tidy my room, then – depending on what I’ve planned for the day – I get to work. Twice a week I wash clothes. If I leave it for a day or two, it is difficult to get a load of washing dry. British weather being completely unpredictable and, not wanting to add to climate change, we don’t have a tumble dryer. Instead,we have an old-fashioned hanging contraption in the downstairs ‘loo’, which has four long slats and is pulled up/let down by means of a rope and pulley. I learned long ago not just to drape clothes over the slats as individual items take up too much room so I hang anything I can on a hanger (they breed like rabbits in our cupboards!), and use those special hangers with the sprung clips for trousers and for pairs of socks. I know it isn’t the kind of work my grandmother (or her servants) would have had to do and of course, it really doesn’t take that much time out of my day, but Ido it.
The clothes drying rack
Perhaps, on washing day (or some other day) I’ll do the half-weekly shop. (In order to have fresh food, fresh fruit and veges, fresh bread, I have to go twice). At the supermarket, which is huge with an enormous parking lot, I try to park as far from the doors as I can so that I get some walking done (!), I put my pound coin into the slot on a trolley and race round the market, picking up fruit which should last for four or five days, two loaves of bread, one of which I can freeze, fresh sprouts, carrots, peas, asparagus or whatever is in season, fish, meat etc and all those other things I didn’t remember I need the last time I came. I love how I can go round, in this particular supermarket, with a hand-held scanner, pack my items into bags and just point the scanner at a machine at the end of my shopping expedition and be told, by the machine, how much I owe. Then I insert my debit card, put in my PIN, take my receipt and go. Occasionally, I am chosen by the machine, and a member of staff will check that I have been truthful in my scanning. Also, if I buy alcohol, the machine flashes a light to tell a member of staff to ascertain that I am over 25. If I am feeling in a ‘fun’ mood, I will assure the young person that I am, indeed, over 25 – as if he would think by looking at me that I may not have reached that age. My hair, as you can tell from the name of my blog, is white (though I suppose it could be dyed) and my skin is no longer that of a young woman, though it’s not bad for a woman of nearly three quarters of a century!
The food cupboard. (The sweet tins hold candles, not sweets!
If I haven’t planned anything for a particular day, there will still be things that should be accomplished like the washing of pots and pans which don’t always go into the dish-washer, sweeping and even (heaven forbid) washing the kitchen floor, emptying the various waste paper baskets that are around the house, cleaning basins, the bath, the shower, the loo floor, the loo (see footnote!), and any one of dozens of other little jobs that have to be done – eventually.
Writing this blog
My mother, as I believe I have mentioned before, was born into a wealthy family. Her mother did very little all day besides dead-head a rose or two, check on her tomatoes, lie on her bed chatting to friends on the phone and ordering weird stuff from the shopping channel (which already existed in Zanesville in the late fifties, I think). As a result of her mother’s lack of knowledge of the housewifely arts, my mother also had that lack – alas, she also had no money for servants, either, so learned about being a housewife by sheer necessity. This meant, of course, that there were many things that she didn’t even know were ‘necessary’ and as a result, she didn’t bring us girls up to know about these things, either. I remember, when I was teaching at The Malling School in around 1992, one of the boys was telling me about his week-end. He said that he had been helping his mother with the cleaning and had had the job of dusting the skirting boards. I didn’t let on that I had never dusted my skirting boards and, in fact, had never even thought of looking at my skirting boards for dust! I’m fairly sure that I have reached my (near) milestone age still not knowing everything I should be doing in the way of housekeeping!
A small bit of skirting board.
Back to the point of this post:
When I have finished whatever housework I consider necessary on any given day, I might write a blog post, paint a picture, do some gardening – if the weather isn’t too bad or go to a class or a film. Meanwhile, Julian will have possibly been out with his painting pals at a local beauty spot. This is what happens at least three days a week and often more, if the weather isn’t too off-putting. He’ll come back with a water colour or two, or an oil painting of places he has been, photograph them and add them to his web-site. If he’s not out, he’ll be preparing boards to paint on, tweaking paintings he did earlier or painting from a photograph.
Dinner is usually ready about seven. We sit down, usually with Emmerdale(!), and eat the meal which I will have chosen, shopped for and prepared. After dinner I do a swift tidy while Julian goes into the living room to watch more tv or into the studio to look at Facebook or Youtube or an artist talking about painting. I usually stay in the kitchen to watch the small tv, do a puzzle or two, read The Spectator or chat with Jennie or Caroline or Myrna on the phone. If Julian is in the studio, I might go into the lounge to watch a boxed set (Mr Robot, series 2 at the moment or, for light relief, Californication which is rude and so funny).
Having read this, can you guess why I envy Julian? He has a clean house, clean clothes, tidy (if not spotless) rooms in which to sit and eat, me to talk to if he wants to chat, food lovingly(!) prepared, and Kitkats in the fridge for when he’s peckish. I would love to be looked after in such a way and in another life, I might have been. When he’s read this, I’m sure Julian will point out that he mows the grass, goes into the cellar to turn the electricity back on if the trip-switch puts out the lights, and does some of the jobs that I just can’t manage. I’ll do an update!
Footnote: When we were growing up in Cincinnati, before we came to England, Patty (my mother) was at university studying to become an architect. She hired a woman to come in, clean and look after us. Her name was Jones. (“My name is Jones. My first name’s Jones and my last name’s Jones. My name is Jones Jones,” she said upon our first meeting.) Jones did all the cleaning except the commodes (what she called toilets) which she refused to do. For some reason there don’t appear in my memory any toilet brushes. Whether they didn’t exist or my mother hadn’t realised they existed, I don’t know but Jones Jones gave Judy, Jennie and me the job of cleaning the two toilets in the house. I don’t think we did much toilet cleaning though and Jones Jones didn’t last more than a week!