I'm standing in the kitchen, somewhat at a loss, holding a long stick with bristles on the end. Some kind of long buried folk memory has enabled me to locate this item and I am ineffectually poking it at the piles of filth and icing sugar on the floor. If memory serves, my mum used to corral the filth into small piles, and then forget about it, so that the Space Cadette and I could then tread in it and spread it around again. Maybe I should try that? I have aready shoved all the dirty clothes I can find under the duvet in my room, prepared a meal not involving crispy crumb coating on any of its constituent elements and shut the tortoises in a cupboard. Lashes' stinky rag, 'Vieux Doudou' is hidden under his pillow. I can't do anything about the glitter explosion in the back room. Damn, that glitter is tenacious. I've been coming to work for a week looking like I've spent the night at Studio 54.
This can only mean one thing - the babysitter is coming.
The babysitter is lovely. She really, really is. She is blonde and beautiful and seventeen; clean and wholesome and well brought up. She can't babysit on Fridays because she has hockey practice (that's real hockey practice not "hockey practice" that means going secretly binge drinking whilst wearing not many clothes). When we come home, the kids are in bed, the house is peaceful, and she is always doing her homework. She makes me want to be a worthy babysittee, or at least for my children to be. Hence the flurry of inept domesticity.
Unsurprisingly, the eurospawn adore her. Lashes surgically attaches himself to her side and puts his head on her chest in a studiedly casual fashion. He does this with all female babysitters, admittedly, but Aurélie is the prettiest, even if ideally I think he would rather she had larger breasts. God, that child likes bosoms (no, rest assured I do not breastfeed my six year old. He just seems a bit fixated). I am telling myself that perhaps this means I have a future Rufus Wainright on my hands. Wouldn't that be great? Though maybe it will be more Benny Hill. Hmm. Fingers flirts mutely, dancing, fluttering his eyelashes, and putting his head on one side like a small pixie geisha. They wave me off indifferently without even looking up, snuggling closer to her compellingly shiny Timotei hair.
It's a humbling thing when the 17 year old babysitter seems more together than I do. When did young people get so neat? And sensible and articulate? I am sure it wasn't like that when I used to babysit. In fact, I feel confident in asserting that I did not form a whole sentence between the ages of 13 and 17 except "I hate you". My abiding memories are of how cold and dark it always felt in other people's houses, how the damned children would never go to bed and how rubbish the food was. The hazards of babysitting for hairy academics in the early 80s included snacks made from carob and hemp, and feral children with incredibly filthy, precocious vocabulary. At least there wasn't much scope for incurring parental disapproval - none of the children had bedtimes, and the parents always came home hours later than promised, stoned and smelling of home brew.
Tonight, I am not even going out for fun. No, it is parents' evening, a time to marvel at how long it is possible for a group of seemingly rational adults to discuss whether plastic water bottles should be allowed in the classroom. All this cleaning, just to drink wine out of a box and listen to the headmaster (my wrong, wrong crush - he's like a tiny, spiky goblin) tell us (like every year) that this year is the most important in our children's lives EVER and that my failure to provide the right brand of crayon is condemning my son to academic failure, alienation, criminality and an early death.
I'm back after a couple of hours to the children's disappointment. Aurélie takes her modest fistful of Euros, kisses us all and heads home. The charmed hiatus of peace and order she brings dissipates instantly. Do you think perhaps I could pay her to actually move in?