What shall I do with her, this house that people come to view and will not buy? I have prepared her each time so as to draw attention to her best features and though not possessing the propertyspeak “wow factor”, her virtues are plain to see. Her defects also. And the people who come are not, I sense, people without a bob or two to spend on something with fuller dimensions. She will appeal to worthy hippies of modest means. Where the devil are they? According to instructions, I have buried my figure of St. Joseph (and dashed good-looking he is, too) upside down at the front of the house. I have shown due respect and wrapped him in a polythene bag to protect from the damp earth, but have forgotten to mark the exact spot so hope I will be able to dig him up again when the time comes so as not to incur the wrath of the heavenly saints – if I have not already done so.
I have let things slip a little, it has to be admitted. I can’t keep the house as pristine as it should be. It is clean but cluttered – by showroom standards, that is. There are things on surfaces, books everywhere and sheaves of paper for the non-existent “to do” file lying around like indolent teenagers that won’t get their act together. The cat’s latest hobby is eating prickly grass to regurgitate on the carpet. It leaves marks. Because the house is on an unadopted, unmade road it gets easily dusty, which I don’t mind, but you can’t show a house off without washing its face, and I forget to.
It occurs to me, not for the first time, that I didn’t have a proper upbringing. My mother had people to “do” for her – a cleaner that came most weekdays plus a live-in mother's help/au pair. She wasn’t rich, it was just how people like her lived then and, one supposes, labour was cheap. For much of the time she worked and, in between husbands, she was a single parent so it undoubtedly made life a little easier than it might have been. I can’t remember ever seeing her doing the cleaning and she only really cooked for high days and dinner parties – exotic things like salade nicoise and fondue. She shopped at a German delicatessen for things like salami and stollen and went to Selfridges for asparagus and smoked salmon. I’m not complaining. Our dysfunctional relationship had nothing to do with her lack of hands-on housewifery. But I never absorbed the skills. The cooking thing I picked up myself – doing it was fun and at the end of it you had good things to eat. It was the cleaning up after that got me. It took me years to learn that there were other ways of removing burnt sugar from a pan than scraping with a knife or that you could clean windows with vinegar water, that there were better ways of maintaining lavatory hygiene than pouring a bottle of bleach down it once a month, that sweeping a floor worked better if you worked from the outside into the middle. Still, I came of age at a time when women were no longer, in theory at least, expected to take all this on their shoulders and never lived among people who considered a dirty front step the sign of bad character. Or if I did, I didn’t notice or care. Him Outdoors has always done his share, and more in the days with young children and me not strong enough. So it’s fine. But I could do with a bit of help from Stepford Wife right now – just while I’m giving the old house a bit of a push, until a new match is secured for her.