Friday, August 07, 2009


So I fired my cleaner today. Actually, fired is the wrong word. OK, so maybe I did fire her and I'm just trying to make myself feel better about things.

The thing is (and you know there's a massive guilt avoidance rationalisation when someone starts a sentence with the words, 'the thing is') she didn't speak very much English. Not very much at all. Which doesn't make me prejudice, because I don't travel to countries and then throw a hissy fit because the god damn locals aren't sophisticated enough to understand me. Nor do I make the very dangerous and ignorant assumption that not speaking English is equal to a lack of intelligence. Rather it was a case of us just not understanding each other, which on a day to day working basis leaves room for all sorts of misunderstandings, irritations, and conflict.

There are those of you who would question just how complicated communication needs to be when someone is doing something as simple as cleaning your house. But then you're probably not very anal and particular about how you like your house cleaned, which, unfortunately, I am. The product of growing up with a mother who was clean obsessed and living in a house where inviting friends round was discouraged because of the inevitable mess that would lead to. Don't get me started on the incredibly uncomfortable wooden ball and claw lounge furniture - the arms of which we were strictly forbidden to sit on. Although that was more my dad than my mum. Why anyone would choose furniture like that with small children is beyond me, but I guess that's also a generational thing.

I'm a lot more relaxed about our home and probably a lot more tolerant of mess. But there's a big distinction between messiness and a place being dirty. I cannot abide dirt. I have the same reaction to it as some people have upon seeing rats, spiders, or Torries.

Anyway, countless attempted conversations with my cleaner went over her head. Like trying to explain that if you cannot make it in to work or if you are running late for whatever reason, it is courteous to do the texting or calling, rather than have your employee text or call you to find out where you are an hour after you are meant to arrive. Or attempting to communicate that leaving 40 minutes early, while still taking the full hourly wage is impolite. Or that dumping sopping wet towels in with the rest of the laundry in a woven basket is ill advised.

When I managed to find a Babelfish equivalent and asked my cleaner, in Lithuanian, to please stop doing this, what with the laundry basket visibly beginning to rot and all, she smiled a great big smile and said, 'Ahhh, thank you, thank you,' delighted that'd I'd taken the trouble to translate for her. And equally, and strangely, appeared happy and relieved as though I'd explained and she'd finally understood something complex like the theory of relativity. Or perhaps she was just overjoyed to have an end to my painful weekly charade spiel of pulling a bad face and pointing to the unfortunate-looking laundry basket.

Today I couldn't even honour the end of our working relationship as I'd like because once again she stared at me with a kindly blank expression while I prattled on about being grateful for all her work, hoping she would find something soon (I gave her a months' wages in lieu), and being sad to see her go.

We are settling in to the new house and also dealing with a few teething issues. A house as technically advanced as this one (it pretty much runs on a central computer system - lights, heating, shutters etc), is bound to get a bit temperamental from time to time. Think about how often you have to call IT at work, and that gives you some idea. Last night we also had a lot of leaking from the glass roof and skylights, although admittedly, that was some pretty intense rain. Plus there's a mouse, although he has been a bit scarce lately. I'm hoping and praying to god he didn't eat any of the poison that the handyman laid out in a trap and just disappears of his own volition, because having met him he is a very sweet and handsome little fellow with big ears and a small brown face. Probably a field mouse. The idea of him lying under a floorboard somewhere hemorrhaging to death fills me with horror and guilt.

An onwards into August. I find it hard to believe that we are coming to the end of summer. The shoe shops, the windows of which I walk past slowly and salivatingly peruse like a dirty old man, are beginning to stock winter boots already. One of these days it's going to be time to retire my Crocks for the year. A sad day indeed.

On a final note, I went along to see Coco before Chanel last night and it was lovely. Visually beautiful and Audrey Tautou was wonderful as Coco. Benoit Poelvoorde as Etienne Balsan was superb too, and I reckon there's an Oscar tip in it for both of them. It has subtitles, for those of you who find such a thing an irritation, but don't let that stop you. 5 stars from me and also another reminder that I need to chuck those Crocks. I mean, what would Coco say?

1 comment:

william said...

You own crocs?!?!?!?!
Cath ;-) xxxxx