Wednesday 17 December 2003

A life of grime

One of the conditions I imposed before I accepted the offer of becoming a Linhope resident two years ago was to get a cleaner to come weekly to try to impress cleanliness on the cluttered house. A simple rule for a tidier life is not to trust three busy, lazy and male city-types to expend much effort on domesticity; the fur-lined coffee cups and overflowing bins I saw on my first visit bore out my suspicions.

It was a wise move, our current cleaner is excellent, cleaning every exposed surface well enough to reveal quite how old and tatty the house really is. Her efforts have made it possible (but not necessarily advisable) to walk on the carpet in socks without stepping in last week's leftover pizza crust, to have a cup of coffee without rooting through the washing up, and I can almost guarantee that at least one saucepan will be clean at any given time.

Hard though she works she never can never quite make Linhope resemble the white-linen and mahogany bachelor pad that lives in my dreams and numerous Ikea catalogues, Morph look-a-like flatmate Davis makes quite sure of that.

Davis' trick, extremely straightforward but difficult to counter, is to never put anything quite where it might be expected to belong, and never, ever, ever, put anything away. For example, whilst it might look trivially simple to put washing-up straight into the dishwasher, Davis places used bowls and pans directly into the sink, where they may prevent easy usage of the tap and foster friendly bacteria.

The unused armchair in the corner of the lounge is so busy being his ersatz clothes-horse and wardrobe it could never be pressed into seating service. The wonky dining table, suitable for one at a time to eat at, shelters empty shopping bags and suitcases between its legs, whilst the table top proudly exhibits an ever increasing amount of unopened junk mail addressed to Mr S. Davis, out of date Time Out copies and half empty packs of chewing gum.

He is a voracious reader of newspapers, consuming them like an earthworm: for a short while they are in front of them, then there is copious rustling, and then they are behind him. And around him. On the floor, on the tables, on the chairs; on any fixed surface. The grubby blue carpet in the lounge is only intermittently visible at weekends as draughts from under the door swirl the sheets of yesterday's news to pile in great drifts of print against the table legs. Some days I get home from work, and, surveying the lounge, conclude I am alone, only for the large pile of papers on the armchair to ask me how my day was as Davis burrows his way through Wapping's output.

Davis' own bedroom is relatively clutter-free, not altogether unsurprising given how assiduous he is in distributing his belongings evenly and fairly over the rest of the house. He would make an economical house painter such is his ability to spread thinly a relatively small amount of objects to efficiently achieve uniformity of clutter coverage. The genius behind it all is that it's difficult to ever throw away any of the mountains of tat without his permission as buried somewhere deep in the stack of last week's papers could be the TV license, a spare set of house keys or a long forgotten guest.

In the face of this sustained tide of litter my feeble Sunday night tidying up efforts make me look a bit of a Canute*.

* (c) easy jokes 2003

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