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Sunday, 25 September 2011


F12 threw himself on the bed, emitting a funny little sound, such as a hamster in crisis might make, “No, no!” he squealed, “This cannot be! This is the deepest darkest day of the Mummy Occupation. Courage! She will not overcome!”
I squirted my delicious Method spray a little more vigorously and busied with my duster. Love product, loathe cleaning. Mmm, almond smell.
“She may take our stuff,” the One Boy Resistance Movement squeaked on, face down into the duvet, doing bugger all to help, “but our dignity and honour remain intact.”
I lifted his legs and poked the Hoover under them sending an expensive clatter of Lego flying up the tube.
"I'll do it!" Too late; the same watery promise has been made for weeks, months. His credibility is shot. "Later! I'll do it later!"

A grim business, entering his room, but needs must when a German Exchange boy is coming to stay. On Ritalin, and with a dust allergy. The heart soared.
I was anxious and collared the teacher.
The Ritalin concern was brushed aside with a brusque, “Lots of children are on it, you wouldn’t know,” so I moved onto the dust allergy, shadow boxing with the brutal truth of describing our house; jabbing hints instead, fearful of closing on the deal and saying out loud that it was a slut fest. “It’s not really … it’s not exactly …. Well it’s not very show-house,” I plumped for. The German teacher inclined her head and indicated that I should flounder further, she all but handed me a spade and pointed where to dig. “It’s more sort of, well, arty,” I cringed and rattled on, “lots of books and pictures and rugs and, and stuff. There’s quite a lot of stuff. And we’ve got a dog and back onto a field, so the chances of him sneezing at something here are quite high. So perhaps he’d be safer in another house?” I ended in a rush.
She gave me a look and said that this kind of allergy meant no building work. It would mean industrial levels of dust. That’s what a dust allergy meant. A vision of our house popped into my mind to fit the bill while I mused, too, on clever old German teachers, the things they know, their skill in reading between the lines, leaving you back where you started only with your card marked and your laziness on parade.

At the time of fessing up, the house was as nothing to what came next and, in retrospect, my protestations were rather fey: the house wasn’t that bad at all, but that was before we had to forfeit several thousand pounds in getting the roof tied together internally, which revealed that a vital steel was missing rendering T14’s room liable to imminent collapse. Back to the breeze blocks we went. Arguments with the builder and dwindling cash mean that T14’s room still has 2 big holes in it, ceiling and wall. No amount of dusting can deal with that one. It’s the sort of hole big enough for this season’s mutant spiders to squeeze through, if they hold their tummies in. That big. About 4’ square each.

So I’ve been attacking the house, on a mission to kill dust and destroy spiders, the beasts that nightly taunt me. Eight we had one night, eight.
One Ran Over My Arm.
Another, the size of Mordor, with legs to match, put approaching the larder out of the question for an evening.
Lolly fleetingly comes into her own as chief spider eater, by which, horrors, I mean only spider eater. But it’s not reliable and it’s not going to save her from the glue factory come the day.

I’ve hoovered under things, not merely round or near them; not merely thinking about doing it and then doing something else instead. I’ve stripped each room back, one by dusty one, in pursuit of hotel status. I’ve polished glass, the while lamenting our endless shelves boasting an array of the coloured beauties, all dunked now in lemony hot hot water and buffed to a sheen.
Towels are lined up, chrome gleams, tiles zing, floors glow. Like when you’re trying to sell the thing. If I’m not hands and kneesing with a dustpan, I’m fiddling with a fluffy thing on a stick rounding up the cobwebs. Really, it will be a housecoat and a scowl next, a broom and an organised shed.

I twitch when the family return to Hotel Lite, drifting into reception (I mean, the porch), before trudging across the foyer (rather, hall), to dump all their gubbins willy nilly in the kitchen. A backpack here, a blazer there, a tie sprawled half on half off a sofa. Sofas where I’ve even hoovered under the cushions.
Oh, pointless life.

In F12’s room, sub sofa cushions yielded a perhaps unsurprising haul: the predictable sock, foreign coins, a locked padlock (no key), a worrying quantity of curry powder, a teaspoon, a selection of bird badges, a short sharp stick and an electric toothbrush.

His room was the final frontier, the bête noir, Room 101. Dreaded and feared and overdue tackling. I girlfully girded my loins and took the brute on. The division of labour shifted: its best, 70:30 (me:him) swiftly became 90:10, became 105:-5 as he realised how much more pleasant it is to sit feet up, reading a book, so sauntered off to do just that in a room I’d prepared earlier (immaculate), leaving me the legacy of his own half-started attempts at tidying, all of which boiled down to fiddling with Lego and wailing and making things worse.

I summonsed him and held up something approximating trousers, “Do these still fit?”
He glanced across and nodded, “Yes.”
“Are you sure? Did you look? These, these trousers?”
“Yes,” (irritably) “hence the Yes.”
“It’s just that they’re age 7-8 and you’re nearly 13. Hence the Are you sure?”

At the end, I stepped back pleased, my face a boil in the bag red, back stiff, hands raw. Under the bed were storage boxes bursting with collated Lego; several bags of crap (broken this, grimy that, illicit wrappers, unidentifiable other) lolled in the boot of the car headed for the tip, “My childhood!” he keened, “How could you.”
The room is now a room and not a squalid holding cell for ancient life forms. Moreover, the door can be left casually open for visiting Germans of a delicate persuasion to glance inside without risking death. One can inhale in there, and walking on the floor in bare feet is back on the cards. Really rather pleasant.

E returned from running round a county somewhere (recreational weekend fare).
“F12’s room looks good,” T15 said in the tones of one delivering unfeasible news.
“Good,” said E, “Good boy, F12!”
This was too much to bear, like having to sit by and just take that red-coated fattypuff Father Christmas getting all the praise.
I wheezed in desperation.
“Mummy helped,” F12 said airily. “It’s not as good as it was though. I liked it better before. It was more me.”
“What’s that you’re doing now?” E asked.
“This? Oh it’s a list. For my birthday. I need some more Lego. Quite a lot really.” He made that funny little sound he makes a lot to signify agreeing with himself – someone’s got to – “hmmmn mmm. Yes, more Lego.” He beamed. “There’s room now.”


Exmoorjane said...

Fabulous as always, dear heart. Have given running commentary on Twitter so won't repeat here...btw, do you know they (being children) now take photos of each other's houses to show and shame on Facebook? Just thought I'd mention it... ;) xxx

PS - glue factory sounds fabulous idea. Job lot?

Anonymous said...

So, can I hire you? Amy's room sounds so much like F12's, how it was, not how it is now!

(Kind of concerns me a bit, on a more serious note, how the teacher reckons many kids are on Ritalin. Hmm.)

Well-written, as always.
CJ xx

DD's Diary said...

Thank god you're in practice with spiders. I need you here now, before the latest invader eats the cat. It'll get you away from the delicate Germans.

Frances said...

Just the other day, I was wondering what you've been up to, Milla. It's been rather quiet from the Lite side. And then, today, all is explained.

I laughed and laughed, and many childhood memories involving my brothers' shared bedroom floated up from who knows where, bringing their own dust, sound effects and so forth. I might even have dreams involving vacuum cleaners soon.

Bravo to you! xo

Fennie said...

There are animals that eat dust if you let them and if the spiders don't eat them first. How do spiders get into doubly glazed and insulated houses? One of life's unfathomable mysteries. Yes I was disturbed by the Ritalin mention. Rots the brain apparently and kills creativity. No more Vorsprung durch Technik as it were. Do you know you can get robot vacuum cleaners now that mooch around in the middle of the night and then take them selves back to the plug when the need charging? Maxima bloga Mille est!

Wally B said...

What a hoot. The really large spiders in our house have a habit of congregating in the guest bath tub. Once in, they can't climb out, so when they get hungry, they fight it out to the death and , well, eat each other. The last one standing on all eights wins. Not so much mess to clean up afterwards.
Now if I could only get them to eat unwanted guests....

Expat mum said...

Fab post as always. We have these massive millipede things that come up through the bath plug hole when you're casually brushing your teeth. Argh!

Pondside said...

We have spiders so big that they cast a shadow. Dust? It holds a lot of stuff together here.

TheMadHouse said...

I dread the day, I really do. I am never having an exchange student pass this door, ever

Edward said...

Terrifically funny as ever, dear girl. As you say, the room is again a room, though it can only stay that way if we bar entrance to its putative owner.

Piggy said...

Oh how I missed you and your crazy sense of humour! Very, very funny piece, especially loved the "red-coated fattypuff" - I may use that to describe my darling husband! Sorry about the hands, but they will recover. However, German teen on Ritalin sounds like a hell from which you may never escape. I wish you all the best of British luck, lovey! x

her at home said...

Just done the same exercise with youngest room but attacked it whilst he was away on his classe de mer.I'd forgotten he had a floor under there. I think mothers should be awarded time off for good behaviour or at the very least a bravery badge for such vile work!!

Fred said...

Dust is the protective covering of fine furniture. (I'd like to take credit for that but I think I read it on a fridge magnet somewhere.)

Was E running around the streets of Newcastle again?

Fabulous blog as always, Milla.

Shiny said...

Oh, bravo. I've just read a book that professes the philosophy that a house is not a home without mess and dust and jam on the cupboard handles. I am subscribing to it fully x

Word veri: astshoo


Trish @ Mum's Gone To ... said...

What's this 'Method' spray you mention? Is it like Mr Sheen? I quite like the idea of an almond smell but my son has a nut allergy.

Milla said...

Thank you all!
Loved the live tweeting, Janey, it were a gas.
CJ no, just no. What do you think I am, mad duster for hire?
DD, tempting, not. I'll take a dozen tricky lads over one S-word.
Frances! lovely to "see" you again, I DO hope you weren't troubled by hoover dreams. The domestic cage should be lifted by night.
Fennie, I didn't know that about Ritalin, how very depressing. Poor boy. Hmmm, do you think I should dig out some colouring pencils and a pad and prod the creative juices so to speak?
Wally, blimey, love, way to bring a girl down, SPIDER WARS. Good God!
ExpatMum and Pondside, not coming to stay with either of you, you'll be sorry to learn!
Maddy, tell me about it, counting down the minutes, hours til he goes. It can only be good after the dread, non? Please don't let me kill him!! Inadvertently, of course, have no plans to do it on purpose.
Edward, good thinking. You buy the padlock, I'll lose the key.
Piggy, borrow away, disturbing image now exists of your husband stuck up the chimney.
Her At Home, bonjour, lovey. Yup, each time, I forget, and even now am deaf to the occasion waiting down my road when I'm at it again, bending, picking up, stepping on Lego, swearing.
Fred, howdy, fridge magnets are full of wisdom. I have one saying "I smile simply because I have no idea what is going on." No, he didn't was too busy covering Stratford and Cirencester. Same insane weekend. My poor children. Sob, they share genetic material. They, too, might willingly purchase lycra.
Shiny, bless you, ho ho. You are clearly a sensible slut. Why didn't I think of that.
Lovely, as ever, to hear from you all.

Milla said...

Trish, hi, Method prides itself on being natural, non-Toxic and biodegradable - ingredients list worryingly long and too small to read, but I doubt any almonds were harmed in the making.
more here:

Trish @ Mum's Gone To ... said...

Milla - thank you! Son only allergic to peanuts anyway so as long as I'm not waving Snickers bars around he's perfectly safe.

elizabethm said...

Fabulous. I remember that pleasure they took in realising that a tidied room had room for more stuff.

Jake Barton said...

Not gushing here, but bloody close to it. Your writing style, the asides, the inconsequential detail, all of it, is a delight. tell you what, I'll stop writing a blog - can't compete with this - and you get yourself sorted and write the book that's screaming to get out. Don't be a wimp and write a piece of froth, you could do that in your sleep, but write the book you owe it to yourself to write. I'll buy it, but I'll not be alone.
I'm even prepared to offer myself for nagging duties, along with the Dulverton wench who'll surely wish to be involved in the chivvying along process. Just a thought, but one that won't be going away anywhere soon.
Jake. (One of the lower orders, but with superior connections).