Last evening, over a meal of chicken paprikas, broccoli, salad, french bread, lubricated with glasses of red wine, old friend Diana, her daughter Deborah, Rumpole and I were discussing the virtues of housekeeping. This is a sore point for Rumpole, mainly because he is frustrated with pointing out to me daily the festoons of spiderwebs on ceiling edges and corners (very Miss Havisham, I prefer to believe) and bits of detritus of contrasting tone on the patterned Indian rugs in the living room ( all of which I cannot at all see these days, so there seems to be no discernible difference, to my eyes at least, before and after vaccuuming – the rug surfaces look exactly the same to me).
Rumpole was quick to announce to these lady friends that he is trying to inveigle me into accepting the services of a house-cleaner. All to no avail, because back some twenty-five years ago, I had succumbed to his pressures to get in a house-keeping service and it did not work out at all well. I, then, spent three days cleaning up the whole house before the cleaning-lady was to arrive. There was no way anyone else should have to sully their hands with our piggish leavings, so it behooved me to clean up in readiness of household help. I was so exhausted after that experiment and so surprised at how quickly the cleaning lady passed through two floors of our house, that I pointed out to Rumpole that the whole exercise was not cost effective. She had made thirty dollars, and I was exhaused and sans shekels.
Deborah cast me a conciliatory glance as she launched into her recent experience with a cleaning service. She and her husband Mardon, both working full time, decided to hire some household help. The woman came in and spent three hours licking clean their upstairs bathroom and didn’t get anything else done. And the bathroom was passing clean, before she had begun her travails. The net result was that Deborah and Mardon were reluctant to make use of their bathroom for the next week, lest they besmirch the operating-room level of cleanliness. Talk about the loo becoming a shrine!
Poor Rumpole had no rejoinder. Really, what could he say? If I got our living area rugs so clean that I would not permit access to that room to anyone, that would negate the use of that room. I would not permit Jessica, the dog, to wipe clean her Scottie beard on the rug, nor allow The General to groom himself at his favourite corner and leave big clumps of hair and the inevitable coughed up hairball, and definitely not leave Rupole free to deposit his gum-wrappers in tight little balls on the floor around his end of the love-seat. Imagine harrassing those three to clean up after themselves? I’d rather stick needles into my eye!
There must be a “Better Homes and Gardens” gene that is missing on my DNA strands. But Rumpole has it in spades. Only he is missing the gene that causes him to do something about cleaning other than complaining.
His favourite mantra is: “My mother was such a good housekeeper that one could eat off her floors and out of her toilet.”
To which my reply is: “Go right ahead , my dear. I dare you to do that.”
Oddly, he has never taken me up on that suggestion. He is persistent though, trying to elevate necessity into a virtue. So far, after thirty odd years of marriage and living together, I have resisted his exhortations to virtuousness. The fatal flaw? That darn missing gene.