At the End of the Day

After a while with builders, the task is not only to clean every day: first of all, one has to clean the stuff with which you’re going to do the cleaning. The brushes, the dustpans ready-filled with dust, the buckets, the mops, and the packs that contain things called Bang, Brite, Beez, Brillante or even Prix. All these have to be taken outside and washed under the garden tap.

Cleaning so often when it’s only going to get filthy again within hours is not evidence of obsessive compulsive disorder. Rather, it is based on the experience of having decided at the start of this marathon not to bother cleaning at all….only to find that, within days, I was walking about on a beach. Had I persevered with this idleness strategy, by now dust-drift would’ve buried most of the ground floor here. My home would’ve become the Sahara Dustcart. Nomadic Islamists would be camping in the kitchen, grumbling that they couldn’t find the oasis,and fighting about access to the well.

Builders seem not to notice dust, but then again they seem to notice very little beyond what happens next. The list of what they don’t notice is near-infinite in nature, and includes milk bottles, sandwich packaging, Twix wrappers, notices saying DO NOT PUT STUFF ON THIS 14TH CENTURY GLASSWARE COLLECTION, used mousse canisters, and the day before yesterday, high-speed drills with a screwdriver attachment up the spout. So it was that Kristyan stepped backwards on Wednesday morning, and embedded a Philips attachment in his calf bone.

Casually smoking a fag, he hobbled into the kitchen and told me his copain Danyel would be taking him to the hospital but there was nothing to worry about, really there wasn’t. That’s the thing with Poles: low in tidiness, health and safety, high in sang-froid.

For a brief period during 1943, my Dad was charged with explaining to Polish RAF pilots how to check the armaments on their planes. He told me that he never met more brave men less interested in the subject matter. In turn, a former Battle of Britain pilot confirmed the view many years later by observing that “you could discuss aerial tactics with them ’til the bloody cows came home….once the Poles spotted a Nazi plane, they were off on a do or die mission.”

Today I made eight jars of Mirabelle jam, which of course in and of itself meant a huge clean up of all the implements used, including the oven. Nothing resists cleaning like sugar-infused soft fruit. There is a point in the process where scum comes to the surface of the mixture, and one has to ladle it out. It’s been hot and humid here today, so foolishly I was carrying out the task in a pair of swimming trunks. Dip into boiling fruit sugar, and bits fly off in all directions onto the skin: there was much “Oooh! Aah! Eeek! Ouch! Arg!” and other expletives during the scum removal process.

A tempestuous thunderstorm arrived in the late afternoon, and the sight as it approached was breathtaking. The sheer power of rainfall so dense it looks like just another cloud has to be seen to be believed: but the near-hurricane that precedes is tells you it’s real enough.

At the moment, Man is going through another of his periodic convictions about the ability of the species to triumph over everything. Just over a century ago, it launched an unsinkable ship that sank on its maiden voyage. Then it launched a war to end all wars, but in reality laid the foundations of the next war. Now, it is trying to float the idea of an economic system to which there is no real alternative – under which 3% of the population get richer and richer, and the other 97% do as they’re told….or else.

It will produce nothing but tears.