Sunday, 7 February 2010

Placing an ad in The Belgian Lady

I'm amusing myself in my squalid pit tonight by adding refinements to my rent-a-person (mother, wife, unjudgmental general factotum). I am bent and crotchety like Richard III in a hoodie. It's quite, quite charming. I would definitely have to pay someone to keep me company. I wouldn't really want staff, although the idea is quite seductive in the abstract (and a frequent shared fantasy with M and Mrs Trefusis). I would find it weird and oppressive, I expect and spend my time in an agony of guilt, awkwardness and mild irritation. Mrs Woolf and The Servants is brilliant on this (I did like that book). Anyway, since we are firmly in the realm of fantasy, the list of duties stands currently as follows:

- Come round and have "a quick tidy up" (twice weekly, Marigolds provided)

- Stroke my forehead and say 'there there, it's ok, you're doing fine' (ad hoc, as required)

- Discourage me from eating 7 cupcakes in a row by their mere presence

- Make cups of tea (constant. It's one of my very favourite things about having my sister or Prog Rock to stay, the endless stream of hot beverages not made by me)

- Walk the dog when bits of me fall off (about twice weekly again)

- Tell me when I am wearing food stained clothes (this would have to be daily - a quick 2 minute outfit check)

- cook a proper meal (once a week is quite sufficient for this. More and I would implode with pathetic gratitude. Noone needs to see that)

- Collect me from the station. I have become bizarrely obsessed with this in recent months. It seems the height of luxury to have someone collect you from the station. Apart from trips to York, when Prog Rock is almost always standing somewhere on Platform 3 smoking a sneaky B & H, noone has collected me from a station or airport since dinosaurs roamed Uccle. Yet lately, when I get off my Eurostar, I find myself casting a wistful glance at the waiting huddle, knowing there can't possibly be anyone waiting for me, and yet bizarrely hoping there might be (who? God knows). Not the corporate ones with misspelt name signs, but the actual people, coming to collect their actual people, carry their bags, give them a hug, spirit them away.

I remember coming back from my first proper trip by myself (a month in Morocco aged 16) and my mum meeting me at Heathrow. When I came through arrivals, at first I couldn't see her, I recall. I remember scanning the barriers to try and see her, and almost getting to the point of being a tiny bit anxious, when she stepped out from behind a pillar. It was, she told me, a trick my father had taught her - to hide for a moment. He's a wicked tease, my father. I think I probably started romanticising being met from a train or plane at this point, and I have never stopped (I've never tried the hiding trick myself, though. I'm not good at deferred gratification). I used to collect the CFO from Heathrow all the time during the Oxford Misery Years, dashing up the M40 at suicidal speed and standing in Terminal 2, sometimes with a silly handmade sign. I want someone to do that for me sometimes, especially the late trains, when I am carrying five plastic bags of cheap chocolate and paperbacks and wearing unsuitable shoes. I want to walk along the dingy, grey, striplit corridor of the Gare du Midi and actually see someone who is (paid to look) glad to see me. There's a French novel that I haven't read, but that was in all the bookshops I ever went into for a while called "Je voudrais que quelqu'un m'attende quelquepart", and it seems to be lodged in my psyche. I want someone to wait for me somewhere.

- bring me my toothbrush when I accidentally get into bed too early in the evening and can't get out again (I want one of those buttons on a string round my neck for this, like those "Mrs Hope knows help is coming" adverts from the back of the Sunday supplements c1985. "Uuuuugh! I have a dental hygiene emergency! Help! And, er, can I have a hot water bottle now you're here?").

What do you think? Am I likely to get any applicants? I can pay, oooh, thirty centimes and all the bowls you can carry. Place your own personal ad for staff in the comments box.


Anonymous said...

If you unwittingly find yourself on the rustic branch line into Stratford, I can totally meet you. My mother is a ferocious little grey-haired gem: you can borrow her for a while if you like. She will tut at you - or at least, she tuts at the dismal grime that thickly patinas our every domestic surface, both literal and metaphorical - but it's a comforting sort of tut, if you understand me.

London City (mum) said...

I will send Blossom over to help you out.

She may only be 5 1/2 but is already - I am reliably informed by her school (where she is 'office helper' on Fridays) - very helpful, very resourceful and very sweet.

Plus she loves stoking foreheads and giving soothing kisses to mother figures, so you might just be in luck.


Anonymous said...

I wish there were a person to deal with all the tedious crap my mother in law refuses to do, refuses to have others do for her (paid or gratis), or the stuff she just outright willfully ignores. At this point this person should be a doctor and a lawyer. She's let things pile up and thinks we, who live thousands of miles away, should deal with things like her car renewal stickers for the car she sold almost a year ago. Of course she just sold it to some chap for a pile of cash with no bill of sale or anything. Nevermind that she should not be driving at close to 90.

Such a person exists, yes?

I agree, it is sad to come to the station or airport and have no one to meet you and spirit you directly off to tea, to dinner or to bed!

Anonymous K/Calgon

Em said...

For very little payment, actually not a penny, I require a very kind soul who would not have any expectations whatsoever that i would tidy-up first. They would give me pocket money, take over all negotiations with the daughter and gently take the bread away before i get to the hard stomach stage. They could do all my parallel parking and decide big decisions. And make me have rests.

That is all. I am not high maintenance.

Lisa-Marie said...

Considering that is hae what is considered to be a 'Victorian servant job' - I am a nanny - and therefor am 'staff', I can say with honesty that you aren't that demanding.

I think what you have to do is find a platonic life partner to do all of these things. If it's a platonic one, then you can get another gentleman friend when you decide you want one.

I would like someone who would do the washing and make me cups of tea. It is very tedious having to do two people's washing with one small machine and no dryer, especially when you live in a tenement with no proper heating(2 plug in radiators = pathetic, piddly amount of heat).

The tea is just because I like it when other people make me it.

I would pay all the cake, biscuits and soup a person could eat.

Lisa-Marie said...

Oh, also, If the person could somehow turn my husband into a tidy person, that would be nice, as he is a messy sod.

He does make me cups of tea though.

katyboo1 said...

Ha! I read Mrs. Woolf and the Servants and came to much the same conclusion. It is too hard. What I would like is someone to come in while I am out and not rob me blind, whilst doing all my chores. I would like to come home to a clean house and edible dinner in the oven, but have the person who made it all possible be gone already. I do not want to talk to them. I just want to mail them notes and cash.

Being met is nice, you are right. I once came back from Scotland on a bus into Digbeth in Birmingham when I had chicken pox. Nobody was there to meet me and I remember sitting on my kit bag after I had pathetically called my parents for help and sobbing my heart out. I don't know if I have ever felt more alone, or itchy.

The Spicers said...

I'd like someone to make me endless pots of coffee, cook decent meals at least a couple of times a week, and wake up in the night to check my diabetic son's blood sugar at 2 and 4 am. And to drive me around-I hate driving. And I have nothing to offer in return except thoughtful conversation on a variety of topics. Not likely to get many takers, am I?

Waffle said...

I wish I could come and do that for you, Janet. Except, as you know, my cooking is like the bastard child of poison and disappointment, and I drive like an epileptic dog. But I would do the rest if I possibly could. xxxxxx

redfox said...

The Mrs. Woolf and the Servants problem is why I have more recently expressed these wishes in the form of desiring a robot butler instead, but on reflection this solution might lack something in the soothing forehead-stroking department. If only the lovely person could materialize from nowhere and just take one in hand, whisking all awkwardness away as deftly as everything else.

redfox said...

And I would surely send the most comforting and scintillating robot butler I could find to Janet, too.

the polish chick said...

i'm in as long as i would be allowed to cook more often. i will not bake, however, or will do it very rarely, swearing all the while.
what are marigolds? you're not offering flowers, are you?

WV: winge, hm...was i? yeah, most likely, i do have that tendency.

WrathofDawn said...

I want Mary Poppins. But mute. Except for when she's singing me to sleep. It's alright to be Practically Perfect in Every Way, but not if you're going to rant on about it.

Laurel said...

Ooh, all right. So on a tangent to redfox's comment. I have always had fantasies about belonging to a London club, the sort like Mycroft's in Sherlock Holmes. Like a hotel but more homey, with people one could socialize with if one wanted, but one is not expected to do so. Always a fire in the fireplace, a delicious meal and other snacks and beverages at the ready, reading material, a tidy well-appointed room far away from the chaos and responsibilities of home. Of course all of this would have to be supplemented by someone from your service to keep things going on the home front while I repaired to my club. Also this would have to be women-only instead of the usual male enclave.

At home: hmm. I thought about it and basically I want magical fairies to keep my home clean and organized and make all the food. And then someone for the "there there" soothing when I am fragile. Basically if I could abdicate 95% of my responsibilities I totally would.

auntiegwen said...

I would like a wife, usual t&c's apply.

Z said...

Terribly gratifyingly, my husband has spent the last fortnight demonstrating that he can do all the things you wish for. I can't spare him just yet, unfortunately, as I still need him on a daily basis to take my socks off.

When my daughter returned from a year in Australia, some 16 years ago, I was very concerned that I might not recognise her and would remain with a hopefully anxious smile long after she had spotted me and was waving at me. I am very poor at face recognition.

Anonymous said...

I think auntiegwen has hit the nail on the head - what you (we) actually need is a wife.

Mya said...

I can cope with most stuff, but I could do with someone to clear up rodent giblets and the feline vomit which generally follows. Salary would be zero but you'd get a nice uniform - a pair of swimming goggles and an old toothbrush. Only a special person could fill this role. Any takers?

Mya x

Lola said...

Required: Project Manager.
Project in Question: All The Things That Need Doing In Lola's Life
- Find a reliable plumber/builder/decorator as required, negotiating all reasonable expenses and monitoring work done, pointing out where inadequacies lie and ensuring remedial work is included in previously quoted price. Also make tea/coffee for said workpeople.
- Clean house from top to bottom every week while remaining invisible so I don't have to make inane conversation (or tea) while watching toil proceeding.
- Manage all other tasks in the whole of my life, like car servicing, dentist/doctor/optician appointments, tax return, laundry, switching utilities when introductory deal ends and 'rip off mode' begins, and so on
- Make husband tidy up and keep his rubbish off my kitchen floor. (This duty is actually the most demanding.)

Any takers?

annie said...

you might consider some sort of compound-y living. we do this, and it is truly marvelous. although I am howlingly, devastatingly untidy, my house is clean (there is a clan of cleaning people who show up when it suits them and inflict cleanliness on us. thank goodness. I have a lot of stuff everywhere but very little dust.)

we have wee small houses on the compound and although I like to blame the wee smallness for the clutter levels, the sad truth is that I generate clutter like it is a my superpower. (it's not. my superpower is that I never get traffic tickets no matter how badly I deserve them.)

the compound effect means there's always someone to run to the grocery store or pick up a prescription, walk/feed/take to vet/dogsit the dogs, water one's plants when one has run away, watch fabulous Bleach with or who was in the mood to make dinner or brunch (or, oh yay! cookies), who will do airport pickup/dropoff and often bring a seasonally appropriate beverage and because of the wee small houses, there is also plenty of privacy for a person when they want nothing to do with anyone else.

I cannot say enough about the glory of the compound. especially for a pet-having only sporadically friendly or effective lazyness such as myself. I encourage a compound. possibly one in each location where you spend time.

Waffle said...

Annie, Can I come and live in your compound now? I don't even care what continent it is on. My hippy roots are definitely coming out here.

annie said...

oh yes. come anytime, and bring the weepette. he can run in maddening circles around the perimeter, intermittently winding through fruit trees to find nourishing snacks of wizened pears, black walnuts and apricot pits and chase hummingbirds and fall out of the hammock with the rest of the useless and enchanting canids.