Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Bit of a Mess

I have to say at the outset, the Husband does not expect me to 'keep house'. He recognises that washing, cooking, cleaning and child rearing is a joint effort that one contributes to as and when required, and is not the default task of one parent or the other.
It's just as well, because my efforts at 'housework' (and here I'm talking about anything from de-crumbing the kitchen worktop to weeding the flowerbeds and spring-cleaning the attic) have got fewer and more desultory with each passing year. And so have his.
When we first married (fifteen years ago today!) and bought our first house, we had so little in the way of furniture and possessions that maintaining the cleanliness of our austere and minimalist environment took a joint hour every Sunday morning.
As time progressed, and the children arrived, we acquired more 'stuff' and as our careers zigzagged and progressed, time became more and more limited and mere housework got lower and lower on the agenda. Sunday mornings got swallowed up in footie and rowing practice, walking the dog, homework sessions, preparation for the week to come and the hoover and duster (let alone the lawnmower and paintbrush) saw action less and less often.
Usually we have to have an imminent 'visit' to spur us into action, but then we have to shelve a more important activity to fit it in. Having given the house a bit of a blitz, we're generally content to let it go for a few months.
Now, we're not complete slobs....the laundry is still rigorously done (in fact, TOO rigorously....where does it all come from?), the plates, cutlery and pots are blasted in a hot dishwasher every day, and the bogs get bleached as often as required, but the less pressing (to us) tasks like vacuuming up the dog-hairs, or washing the kitchen window-sill with soapy water, or dusting just gets left. Everyone has clean clothes and hot food and is (relatively) ready to go to where they have to go, when they need to....but that's it. the fluff-wads and tea-stains accumulate, not because we don't care - we just don't have the time to address them.

My research is at such a stage that I now sit down at 7.30 in the morning, and often don't stop until the children get home at around 4 - 4.30pm. (No, that's a lie....sometimes I have to stop because my head is buzzing and I have written myself into a stupor).

The Husband disappears off to work at the same time to his highly stressful and unenjoyable job. Come evening time, 6pm, we sit down to a meal (usually some form of pasta bake or casserole - never, ever, complex or time-consuming) and afterwards generally nothing much happens unless the Husband goes to the gym (mercifully he has stopped his relentless rowing regime) or I go to my language night-class. I suppose we could fit some 'housework' in then......yeah right! That ain't EVER gonna happen!

Why blog about this today? Well, as it is our anniversary, the Husband secretly booked a trip to London, where we will go to the British Library, the National Gallery (both his suggestions, bless him!) and to see a classical concert in St Martin-in-the-Fields. Wonderful! I am so looking forward to it! Daughter #2 is coming to stay at ours (c/w the Bouncing Babba) to look after the young 'uns and will sleep in our big bed. OK.....that entailed me having to wash the one remaining decent bed-sheet (currently in use) and finding it has a rip in it. Actually, I knew that, but was ignoring it.

Drove to a nearby shopping mall this morning to look for a cheap bedding set, but they didn't have anything in super-kingsize, and as I needed proof-read and email my latest portion of work off to my supervisor before lunch, I couldn't afford any more time out. I'm fear that I am actually going to have to do some 'mending'!
My lovely In-Laws will be also round tonight to bring us a card and their best wishes (bet they didn't expect us to last, ha!) and I am conscious that, by their standards, the house leaves much to be desired in the cleanliness stakes. My M-i-L is one of the last generation of stay-at-home mothers (actually, she is fairly unusual in her generation too - many of her contemporaries work at least part-time) whose day has been devoted for 40 years to the daily rhythm (grind) of housework and cooking. Her one-time remark to the Husband was that, if a woman was out at work, she was not doing a proper job at home. Quail!
I don't think she quite realises the amount of time I spend on my work (which is mostly produced on the laptop in the front room 'study') and probably wonders (though she is far too polite to say so), given that I am at home all the time, why the house is so filthy. (I've caught her examining my plug-holes and the inside of my kettle, you know....)
By and large I don't care, but I would really like to care less. It seems really unfair that any shortfall in the household cleanliness will probably be down to me somehow, because I'm the woman.

Just because I am, doesn't mean that I have any interest in housework, soft furnishings or the like. I guess I'm not very nurturing. Don't get me wrong, I am capable and caring, but will not be whipping up tempting little snacks, plumping any pillows or bleaching the paintwork.

The Husband once called me unsympathetic, but my response was 'I will sit up all night with you, and dose you with medecine and run you to the hospital if you need me to. I will wash you and feed you and make sure you are comfortable. Just don't expect any snuffling and maudlin noises of empathy. That's not my style. I am not your mother.'

I am not going to look at the overcrowded worktops in the kitchen. Granted it would only take a couple of hours to clear them (and the cupboards bulging with out-of-date dry goods), but it's time I just don't have. Nor, in truth, do I have the inclination. What I would like is a cleaning fairy, and I've told the Husband this. He said he'd rather do it himself than pay someone to come in....but that isn't very likely, seeing as he has even less time (and not much more inclination) for such matters than I do! Impasse.

The house is a cluttered mess.
But it is of our (mostly my) making: the books piled high threaten to take over every surface, but that's the way it currently is.
At the moment, this house is my office, my library, my laboratory, my reasearch my all-consuming passion. Time will come, I suppose, when I'll consider cleaning the windows a profitable and attractive way of passing an empty hour. Or not.
I know when I visit houses that are as mad and cluttered as ours, I feel an overwhelming sense of relief and I hate 'show-homes' where no-one has any of their 'stuff' on show and everything is pristine. What I really dislike is when people act like their homes are really disgustingly dirty when there isn't a smeary window or sticky cupboard front to be seen. I know their game!
However, it would be extremely nice for a change to snuggle down in crisply clean sheets (not prepared by me though!), next to a bedside table that was not covered with fluff-wads and tea-stains. Just don't move the books.
Any offers?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Alone in Paris

Back from Paris, and contrary to our fears EVERYTHING was working as per normal. In fact so efficiently, that on arrival at the Gare du Nord, we made our way to the metro just as a train arrived, boarded it, made our way to an interim station, changed lines and arrived on the platform just as a train arrived again. Consequently we got to our hotel, in the east of the city, less than thirty minutes after arriving in the capital. The hotel, a Novotel, was functionally fine (although it appeared that the interior designer had previously worked on the set of the Austin Powers movies) and the self-service continental breakfasts were epically satisfying and a good start to the sight-seeing day. The weather was extremely kind to us, save for a torrentially wet start to Saturday that cleared by lunchtime, and walking through the falling leaves of the Tuileries was a delight, as were the chocolats chauds that we availed ourselves of in the various cafes we frequented. I won't bother to detail the itinerary, except to say that the highlights - for me at least - was the lovely autumnal light, the bustling market next to the Montparnasse cemetery, the cemetery itself, the view from the top of the Montparnasse Tower, onion soup near Montmartre, the brilliant white dome of the Sacre Coeur against the azure sky, the Eiffel Tower sparkling on the hour and a (very) quick visit to Shakespeare and Co. bookshop on Rue Bucherie. I could have spent a lot longer looking around this last, but as the Husband and two children were waiting outside, I made it a brief visit.
Too brief, and yet again I feel like I'd been sidelined. Nor did we visit Les Deux Magots or Cafe de Flore (which I'd wanted to do last time we were in Paris, godammit!). Fair enough, I suppose, the guidebook did contain a warning about the prices charged for a cup of coffee in those places. But still - there's a limit to the amount of times I actually want to see the Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triomphe.
Once is quite enough for me - likewise the rather bland civic architecture of places like the Madeleine, or the Pantheon or Les Invalides. Impressive in scale, yes, but not what makes up the real essence of a city. Paris is just SO big that macro-scale sightseeing just doesn't work for me. Everything is so far apart that you either have to metro it across the city, popping up like surprised moles at an adjacent station, or (as we did this time) sit for an inordinate amount of time on the open-topped tour bus and it contended with the Parisian traffic, which takes an age. I'd hoped that we would indulge in a little micro-scale tourism, taking an area and patiently exploring it street by street and getting to know some of the city's character. I'd picked the area near the Luxembourg Gardens, pinpointed a few destinations and interesting novelties, but alas it fell by the wayside. The only thing remaining of that itinerary was Shakespeare and Co. and a curious little Melkite Catholic church (which in truth was rather a let-down) St Julien le Pauvre.

I'd also managed to choose completely the wrong footwear. Having bought a pair of 'proper' walking boots to replace the ones I'd got last year (that never, ever got any comfier despite the saleswoman's assurances), and I thought I'd broken them in sufficiently to take abroad, having walked into town in them a number of times. They certainly didn't rub at all, and we weren't -on account of the open-top bus - doing an unfeasibly large amount of foot-slogging, but by mid afternoon the left boot was feeling agonisingly tight across the top of my foot, and causing it to go into spasms of cramp. I can't understand it, other than reason that the left boot has been made somewhat smaller than the right. The Husband thought it was something to do with the peculiar anatomy of my foot, but as I pointed to him, I've never had this particular problem before - not even with last year's boots which were patently a size smaller than they pretended to be!
The lasting legacy has been a numb side to my left big toe, and I find that my knees, which became increasingly stiff in Paris, have almost now almost entirely seized up, especially the right one.
It's incredibly hard to stand up at the moment - I don't think it's the joint itself, rather the ligament arrangement around it. Support doesn't seem to help and I'm a bit worried about restricting the blood flow. Coupled with a diagnosis a couple of days after we returned (during a routine appointment and on my birthday of all days!) of rather high blood-pressure (probably hereditary) I feel that I am getting old, creeky and about to fall apart at the seams.

Having been delighted about visiting Shakespeare and Co., I was eager to tell of my experiences, but realised there was actually no-one to tell. No-one I know has heard of it, and if you have to tell someone what it is before going into raptures, it kind of removes the pleasure of relating your story. What I really wanted was someone to say 'Oh wow! What was it like?' But no.
Once again I find I am the only person living in my world.