Monday, 28 June 2010

In which I find a new cleaner

“Hmm. You do need to find someone else, don’t you?” The Mother said. She stood in the kitchen, having dropped off a load of The Father’s home-grown asparagus, looking over the surfaces with an eagle eye. Only at that point did I notice the fine layer of dust on top of the espresso machine and the slight tarnish on the cutlery in the drainer.

“Um, yes, I suppose so,” I said, hoping to high heaven that she wouldn’t find any reason to look under the fridge, but knowing that, with my Mother, anything’s possible.

It had been a couple of weeks since I’d discovered that my previous cleaner had had to have a liver transplant, and therefore wouldn’t be available for several months to let Colin sit on the draining board and lick water from the tap whilst she did the washing-up. It’s safe to say that Blonde Towers wasn’t as clean and shiny as it can be.

“I’ll ask around for you,” she said.

And thus it was that just days later, a text message from The Mother came through.

I’ve asked around, and found someone for you. She’s one of the ladies who cleans the church, and is very good. She’d like to have a look around to work out how much time she’ll need, so I’ll let her in this afternoon. X
By the time the message came through to me in Small But Perfectly Formed Agency’s basement office, it was several hours later.

My initial feeling of cheer that I’d no longer have to scramble onto chairs in an attempt to reach and dust the light fittings was soon replaced by one of foreboding.

Not expecting company (and definitely not expecting The Mother), I was pretty sure I’d not left the house in a state particularly fit for visitors. My mind wandered over bras draped over the radiators and mugs of not-quite-finished tea on every horizontal surface in the house; shoes scattered liberally over the hall, and an unloved and wilting peace lily in the downstairs loo. I couldn’t bring myself to think about the overflowing state of the laundry basket.

I returned home from work later that night to find a house that had definitely been tampered with.

The shoes were lined up and the post on the coffee table was in an exceptionally neat pile. The week’s papers were in the magazine rack, and the washing-up had been done. Even the multitude of papers pinned to the fridge with a variety of magnets looked neater and tidier.

The multitude of the papers pinned to the fridge looked neater and tidier.

I looked at the fridge door, where I keep all variety of photos, numbers and invitations. There, on the door, I still had the invitation to Speckled Lad’s Commissioning, and all the day‘s other paperwork. Which just happened to include the card I’d been given by the Brand New Officer so keen to find a girl to take to lunch that he’d gone to the ball equipped with a supply of pornographic playing cards with his number scrawled on them in biro - turned over, clearly to protect the modesty of the model, me and the new cleaner, known to my mother from her time spent cleaning the local church.

Suddenly the underwear scattered liberally over the house didn’t seem to be the sluttiest of my embarrassments.

Monday, 21 June 2010

In which I give a few tips on dating a celebrity

Some flatteringly kind responses in a variety of channels to a recent post made me think that lessons I've learnt from my not-quite-many-but-definitely-some dealings with the opposite sex might be worth sharing, if just to save people having to repeat any of my mistakes.

And so, below, a few hints on dating that ten-to-the-dozen breed that plagues modern life: the celebrity.

1) The basic one: he/she/it (well let's be honest, who can tell with Liza Minelli these days) is not, and will never be, just yours. Paps, journos, autograph hunters, any member of the public with zero scruples and a desire to make a quick buck, gold-diggers: you'll have to compete with them all. If you're easily irritated by an inability to have an uninterrupted dinner out; prone to a touch of the green-eyed monster or in possession of exceptionally nosey friends, this ain't the project for you.

2) Unsubscribe from Holy Moly, Popbitch and heat, immediately if not before. They contain nothing you want to hear and trust me, you'll hear it anyway.

3) Be sparing in your use of the Sun online, Wikipedia and Perez Hilton. And don't even think about punching their name into Google. Just, don't.

4) There will be a vast back catalogue of indescribably glamorous and good looking exes. They'll be any intimidating combination of: Oscar-winning / blonde / leggy / the face of an impossibly fabulous luxury brand / UN goodwill ambassador. You can't compete. Don't try. And again, for the love of your self esteem, don't Google.

5) Develop a firm streak. You'll have to veto some pretty daft ideas, from large amounts of coke on a Tuesday afternoon to appearances on reality television via the choice of dog. Stand your ground. 9 ½ times out of 10 you'll be right.

5a) You'll be one of the only people in their world being firm; giving reasoned, considered opinion; and saying no. Stick to your guns. You will have to argue against well-meaning but short-sighted friends, agents and sycophants who crop up in the pub. It might not be big, nor clever, but the ultimatum does have its time and its place.

6) There will be photographers. However secluded the house, whenever you're opening the bedroom curtains, make sure you're doing so in more than your underwear.

7) Only tell the people you can trust to be the utter model of discretion. Being offered large amounts of cash by the News of the World because they’ve been told of the situation by a loud-mouthed acquaintance will make you feel so dirty you'll develop OCD in your attempts to feel clean again.

8) Celebrities seem to have an overwhelming sense of entitlement; a warped view of how the world works; and a heart-breaking naivety about the human spirit. Be kind. Because a lot of others won't be.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

In which there's gossip

There are some upsides to working in a small office: quite easily, everyone gets to know everyone else, and you can quickly identify the tics that indicate whether someone's going to make a pleasant colleague for the day or whether they're going to be about as patient and amenable as Pete Doherty going cold turkey. You learn much more, much more quickly, and the bosses are generally a bit more receptive to the foibles of their staff being human and needing to take the occasional long lunch to run errands.

But a small office does, of course, have its drawbacks - the workloads can be a touch on the heavy side at the best of times; there's no avoiding the client you'd happily see whacked up in front of a tribunal for such horribly sexist attitudes that his female PRs want to shed their skins in total revulsion; and there's absolutely nowhere to hide as far as the office gossips are concerned.

Halfway through last week, I was having a total shocker of a day.

Not going to be able to do drinks tonight, I fired off in an email to Hot Flyer Boy. As if I weren't already having an epically bad day, have just been told I'm working tonight and it's going to be a late one [I probably shouldn't bitch and moan when my late night at work was mandatory attendance at The Strokes' secret gig, but it's my prerogative and I'll bitch and moan if I want to. Because, if I'm honest, all I really wanted was a quick gin and an early night. But there you have it]. See you when you're back from hols. xx
No worries, came the reply. Don’t work too hard. Speak soon. xx

Sitting at my desk a while later, in walked a familiar figure, scruffy in untucked shirt and slightly stubbly face.

“Hey you,” he sauntered to my desk and kissed me on both cheeks.

“Hot Flyer Boy! What are you doing here? And how did you get in?!”

“Front door was open. Not great security you got there. Anyway, you said you were having a bad day, and these are guaranteed to cheer me up when I'm feeling a bit rubbish.” He handed over a pint of milk and a large packet of M&S chocolate chunk cookies. “I mean, I've never done the American thing and actually had milk and cookies, but I figured it's probably quite nice. The cookies are the best, anyway.”

“HFB, that's so lovely. You didn't need to do that.”

“No I know. But I wanted to. I should shoot off. See you when I'm back, yeah? And don't work too late.”

With which he disappeared back up the stairs into the evening.

“So, Blonde. Why exactly are you not with him?” My boss had turned in his chair and was giving me his best I-want-to-be-Jack-Bauer face.

“Because he's Boy, and we’re just friends,” I said.

“That's the second boy who's brought you cookies in here!” Liver Bird squealed, beside herself with excitement.

“Yup, and I'm not dating the other one either.”

“He loves you!” she squealed happily.

“He doesn't,” I said, to deaf ears.

“Just wait till Intern’s back tomorrow,” she continued to squirm. “Oh my god! I can't wait to tell her.”

Really, I should have counted my blessings. At least there weren’t more people she could tell.

Monday, 7 June 2010

In which neither my cleanliness nor my Godliness is up to much

It’s a peculiarly middle-class dilemma: when one’s cleaner seems to have let standards slip, what’s one to do?

“Darling, it’s really not good enough,” said The Mother. “You’re paying her to do a job: if it’s not up to scratch then you need to say something. You wouldn’t just let it go if it were someone at work, would you?”

TM is right. I’m not too fond of putting up with substandard service in other areas of my life, whether it’s a supplier at work dragging their feet, or shocking rudeness from a National Rail employee when I'm trying to renew my season ticket.

But somehow, I’ve been less quick to jump to noticeable displeasure when it comes to telling the cleaner exactly what I’m thinking.

When I moved in by myself, it wasn’t too long before I decided that paying for a cleaner would be as obligatory as paying the mortgage. Whilst relatively domesticated (there’s always bacon in the freezer and beer in the fridge for when the boys come to visit, and I’ve picked out the most gorgeous of paint for the sitting room), I’m not a fan of cleaning and, left to my own devices, won’t do it anywhere nearly as frequently as society or levels of dust would like.

And so, making the most of The Mother’s seemingly endless network of Home Counties stereotypes, I happened upon a recommended cleaner.

Things started so well: I’d get home on a Friday night to find the duvet left without a single crease, and everything in the bathroom lined up in size order, from vast bottles of Toni and Guy down to the smallest Ren samples. And so it continued for a couple of months, until things began to sneak steadily downhill. I’d come home to find the duvet still crease-free, but the sitting room not vacuumed, or the glass not cleaned. And yes, I realise it’s churlish to complain about the coffee table not being polished when I could so easily do it myself, but the point of paying someone else to do it is so I don’t have to.

“Urgh, I think I am going to have to bite the bullet and let her go,” I said to The Mother, when she dropped off eggs from the neighbours’ hens that roam free-range round the neighbourhood, happy to do battle with my parents’ enormous and murderous cat.

“Well, I think you should, darling,” TM said, casting a clearly disapproving eye over the skirting boards.

And so it was that I sat on the sofa later that evening, mentally composing a polite note to leave the next time the cleaner was due to come to rearrange the dust when the phone went.

Hi Blonde, read the text. I’m really sorry but I’ve not been very well recently and they rushed me into hospital the other day to have a liver transplant so I’m not going to be able to come in for a while. Hope you and Colin are ok.


Guilt? All-consuming. Dilemma? Solved.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

In which I factor in the ex

There are several of my friends who, having broken off any sort of romantic dalliance, will do as much as humanly possible to stay out of the other person’s way until… well, kingdom come, ideally. In some cases, this goes further than the normal screening of calls, and avoiding favourite haunts: Speckled Lad has been known to leave the country. Several times.

I don’t subscribe to such extreme measures. I’m rather of the opinion that, if things didn’t end in a blaze of hellfire and thrown crockery, there’s probably enough in common between you to enable you to enjoy the occasional glass of wine. It’s either an alarmingly na├»ve proposition, or an alarmingly grown-up one. I’ve not yet decided which.

I have several male friends who started life as something other, none of whom I have the desire for anything romantic to happen with, and whom each, in their own way, has something to add to Social Circle Blonde.

There’s Long Term Ex. When we broke up, I wouldn’t have been able to sit down with him over a whisky - it was too painful even to picture him, or think of his voice. But over time, that’s disappeared and these days he’s a good friend. Now, should I ever need someone to recommend an album of - his words - dirty country music (which, if I’m honest, is so rare as to have never, ever happened), he’s right there. He’s also an expert on all manners of formal etiquette, making Debrett’s look positively oikish; and is deeply useful for sensible diagnoses when I’ve Googled what has ultimately turned out to be a heat rash, but I’ve managed to convince myself is necrotising fasciitis.

There’s The Architect - not only is he a dear friend (despite being of an alarmingly left-leaning political persuasion), he’s introduced us to his now-wife Gin Operated, who has become a crucial cog in the Social Circle Blonde machine.

And Minor Celeb and I still have a good relationship (give or take his, um, moments); his recent requests for my thoughts on his latest project were uncharacteristically graciously received.

My theory that previous romantic entanglements have excellent potential as friends was reaffirmed recently when I went for a drink with The Planner.

Following our two good dates, it was obvious that he and I get on well enough to have sufficient to talk about for the duration of a couple of glasses (okay, okay, a bottle) of wine. And, with the wherewithal to know that, just because we’ve shared a bit of a snog, that fact doesn’t preclude us from spending a pleasant, platonic evening together, we did. We chatted about work, holidays, families, nothing in particular. I teased him about his inability to spear the olives sitting in the bowl in front of us; he mocked my directional incapabilities (I very nearly didn’t make it out of the tube station, let alone to the bar). It was one of the most relaxed and relaxing evenings I’ve had in a long time.

It’s reiterated my belief that if, once, you liked each other enough to put up with how they looked in the morning, and the way they were inclined to drink juice out of the carton, then it’s rather childishly cutting off your nose to spite your face to banish Ex from your life just because one or both of you are now sleeping with other people.

Which is good, because if I had to skip the country every time things went tits-up, there’d be no money for shoes. And that would be a sad state of affairs indeed.

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