Cleaning our home has become a revolutionary experience. John insists that he doesn’t want us to have a cleaner again. (She and her husband have currently returned to Poland for fear of the UK COVID strategy.) At the same time John is not keen, to say the least, on domestic chores, although if he can be persuaded to leave the stove, computer or easel his results are more exemplary than any employee. He complains, but I think we agree there is something that borders on the sacred when you perform domestic rituals with love and appreciation and don’t treat them like an inconvenience. Sometimes, I recommend a mop and bucket to people who are depressed, it can be therapeutic to slosh about with soap and water. On a more sophisticated level I might tell them to stop baulking at Internet banking and learn to manage their account electronically. You can access your ‘power’ in all sorts of unexpected ways. I have grown attached not only to my ostrich duster but also to my bucket and mop. I had no idea there was a pedal on the side which squeezes the mop dry; almost as good as going to a gym. I do not like the hoover and can see why so many professional housekeepers have back issues. (The hand held Dyson makes the staircases a cinch.)
A few years back we bought a Miele hoover designed for homes with dogs and cats, but within months, whenever the hoover had been used, we returned to find the house smelling like a kennel for several hours. We got used to the inconvenience, bought lavender bags, accepted the paradox. Last week John hoovered while I mopped when DEFRA came down from upstairs to ask how come we tolerated a hoover which was emanating odours rank as a zoo yard. We could not disagree. He (our polymath son for those not familiar with his nickname DEFRA) is also our in-house paramedic, technology consultant, and professional psychotherapist when he is not supervising his parents), dismantled the hoover to find all sorts of longterm and neglected filtration problems; internally ‘nothing connected to nothing.’ Spare parts, and filters were required; frustrating model numbers had to be located, identified and ordered at great expense of my time. The outcome is winsome as any aromatherapy.
John and me have a different typology, which is probably one reason for the longevity of our marriage. John likes to live in clean chaos while I find external chaos disturbing, albeit I am far from obsessional. Being able to tolerate chaos is an important part of the practice of psychotherapy and the same, for me, is true of writing. They share a fear that there is never guaranteed success. Those different universes, the domestic and the cerebral, collide inside my mind which is dominated by an indomitable super-ego, in non-jargon, an internal critic who decrees – in contrast and in addition to internal frenzy – there must be domestic order. John flourishes in creative chaos and possesses the convenient gift of oversight, whereas I am an overseer, and additionally, so my family insist, a white witch. No wonder I am addicted to the mop and ostrich feather broomstick.