Sunday, June 13, 2010


I have been incredibly busy recently. Rearranging the spice and herb jars, if you want to know. What do you mean, is that all? Listen, Signs Cottage is a seriously makeshift establishment. The walls etc. are solid enough, give or take disintegrating window frames, faulty guttering and places where the corner between ceiling and wall begins to weep for no reason that anyone can ascertain. But I am speaking about interiors. We have managed to get along for nearly twenty years by, basically, leaving everything alone. If it doesn't make serious attempts to get our attention it stays as it is, and this includes big things like the energy-inefficient boiler, which we are annually told should be replaced, and the ancient wiring that is bosom friend to a poltergeist, as well as the shelf that holds the spices. It is not strictly speaking a shelf. It is a bit of wood that sits on top of two twenty-year-old cans of Whole Earth organic spaghetti. It works as long as you don't move the cans, so usually I don't. The problem with serious cleaning/rearranging is that once you begin to go in there with any kind of serious intent everything begins to clamour for attention. I have thrown out packets and jars that are at least five years past their use-by date, and some so old that they didn't even have a date. It was our wedding anniversary yesterday and Mr. Signs was at shrink school so I wanted to make the gesture. No need to feel sorry for me, I was given beautiful roses and dined on exquisite dover sole (before the football recommenced in earnest).
Something has changed in here, said Mr. Signs, but I don't know what it is.

I have noticed that kind of thing. I am missing the lovely person who used to come and vacuum the house, clean the floors and dust. Whenever she had been I sensed a change in the house, as though it could breathe more freely. I am quite certain that this is not just my imagination. So many subtle things come into play inside a house or flat - inside anywhere that calls itself home to anyone. An ancient friend who originally met the mater in internment camp during the war, once said to me: it doesn't matter about what you have or haven't got in your home, it only matters about the life that you live there (imagine this with a thick German accent). This means all kinds of things, including the attention one gives to cleaning and rearranging a spice shelf.

The Brighton flat is a place of beauty because of the shape of the rooms and the light. But it also has something else, given by the previous occupants, a family with two young children. I don't know how they managed to squeeze themselves in there, but they loved the place. They said so, and you could feel it breathing out of the walls. I think the youngest child was probably born in the bedroom.

I have recently become more aware, because of someone I have met, of problems experienced by people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Most PWME share some of the same issues, to a greater or lesser extent and we are probably far more affected by toxic substances than we know. I was mindful of this when choosing what to paint the walls with (Farrow and Ball) but didn't think about the new bedroom carpet or the sofa. Both are emitting something, especially the carpet, and the emissions are not good. I hope that in time they will evaporate - that it will not become too much of a problem. Our homes should be places where we feel safe and free from fear.


trousers said...


Zhoen said...

I've actually gotten a lot from "How Clean Is Your House?" I use dilute vinegar, alcohol, salt, baking soda, or add a few drops of dish detergent to warm water. Eucalyptus in the laundry to kill dust mites, I've grown so sensitive to artificial perfumes in the usual commercial cleaners, and these homemade preparations are easier on my nose, and probably kinder to Moby as well.

It really does make a difference to have a clean place.

Cusp said...

Well home is where the heart is so of course it holds all sorts of feelings. Signs Villa sounds lovely in all its quirkiness.

I suffer from MCS quite badly. The wretched business can spoil all sorts of things for me and recently the new sofas we bought have been the bane of my life. I'm like Zhoen and I'm very particular about cleaning materials and paint. I've just found some 'green' paint where you buy a non-toxic clay-based white base and add powdered or liquid pigment. You can sleep in the room you've painted the same night. That's what we'll be using in the new extension when it's completed. Have you heard of this company ? Very useful

Carpets are full of toxic substances. Not much you can do now I fear except air the room as much as possible

Glad the Brighton flat is bringing you so much joy and that it's a happy abode ;O)

Mim said...

It can be so satisfying to tidy up a small patch. I've been doing the same, and like you find that one thing leads to another. I found an ancient packet of "Jello" stuck to a shelf. How did this ever get into our house? It's nothing but artificial ingredients, including yellow dye.

Reading the Signs said...

The problem is not at Signs Cottage but the new place. I think it will all fade with time, given enough open windows.

Zhoen, I have also been inspired by How Clean Is Your House and have the book! The power of white wine vinegar and bicarb of soda is a revelation. But I don't think they have any suggestions about how to deal with chemical substances in new carpets.

Cusp, the Farrow and Ball paint has been completely problem free and also looks good (v expensive). I could kick myself for not giving more thought to carpet - but I've had new carpet before and it's never been a problem. Also we've got a new leather (I know but it was the only really comfortable one) sofa - and I think that is emitting something or other.

I'll take a look at the healthy house link, ta.

Reading the Signs said...

Mim, hello. I think I need to take the "small patch" approach to many more things in my life. I might get more done that way.