Monday, 14 March 2011


When we arrived back last night it was very apparent that spring had snuck in while we were gone. It was raining, yes, one wouldn't want to go overboard, but it was a soft rain, and the air was warm. WARM. I had forgotten what that even was. I had a drink with Beatrice once the boys were back with their father and we congratulated ourselves on this development.

"The best thing is" said Beatrice, tempting fate terribly "That's it now. Winter must be over".

We waited for the freak ice storm, but it did not come. Maybe tomorrow.

In the meantime the bright spring sunlight, which is a joyful, wonderful thing, gives me several problems, what with being a mardy old cow. The first is the house. There's a reason spring cleaning is called spring cleaning, and it's because the spring sunlight makes you realise just what a nest of FILTH you (I) have been living in all winter. Ye gods. I thought it was bad, but now I can see it's .. well. I was going to show you what I found behind the recycling box, but apparently I can't, because the thing that looked like an enormous dead spider clearly WASN'T DEAD. Nice. You'll just have to take my word for it. The not-dead spider is just one of an endless series of housekeeping unpleasantnesses that I now feel I must tackle, and they all seem inextricably linked in a wearisome way. If I want to get the front shutter mended, I must dispose of the Christmas tree in case the landlady takes exception to it, wash the windows, and deal with the chip on the bath. If it does get mended, I'll be able to see the state of the sofa, and I know I won't like it. Can't I just sit here in the sun? Maybe go and get a Cornetto?

Worse, even, than the house is the sight that greets me in the (smeary, toothpaste flecked) mirror, where the sun also gives a new, entirely unwelcome clarity. Who the fuck is that old woman and what is she doing in my house (and why hasn't she hoovered, if she must be here)? It's not that I let myself go over the winter, exactly. More like I pushed myself of a cliff into a sea of butter with salt crystals, bouncing off the jagged cliffs of Daim bar and Hula Hoop. Alcohol should also be included in this ridiculous simile, but I can't be arsed to crowbar it in. Whatever. I look "rough as a badger's arse", as my former cleaner (wish she was here too) used to say. Particular problem areas: jowls (brrrr), general skin tone and everything south of my neck. This was definitely the winter my upper arms became unfit for public exposure and the rest? Well. I will draw a veil. I would, if I could, draw a veil over my entire person and wrap it five times around myself in billowing, forgiving folds. I might need to do just that as my clothes are all mysteriously too small. I'd say they shrunk in the wash but they're all dirty too.

It's impossible to know where to start, so I started by going to Di (substandard Belgian Boots, but with more household cleaning products) and buying a kilo of Epsom salts, something to descale the dishwasher, dental floss, bath oil that promises "forme et vitalité" (I'll need them), some cotton wool and an economy sized Cif. Then I drank some juice. That seems to cover most bases, apart from the ones that require actual effort on my part. As long as I don't get my products mixed up, that might sting.

Any spring cleaning or spring grooming tips? Bear in mind I have neither 1. money, nor 2. a shred of inclination to get off my arse.


Kath said...

Acetone (nail polish remover) will literally clean any stain off unvarnished wood, unpainted metals and glass. Normally best to try a little bit somewhere hidden first, it's pretty strong stuff.

Also, I'm currently playing Pokèmon in two languages. This reminded me of you and your boys.

Laura said...

What's a "Cif"?

Do people in Belgium go jogging? I did Couch to 5K ( about a year ago and it has done a world of good for my mental state as well as my body. I'm not gonna lie: running sucks sometimes, but it gives you a reason to go outdoors and eventually you do start to enjoy it.

I have no spring-cleaning tips; my house is a disaster year-round.

Anonymous said...

Shut your eyes? Or keep the shutter down? We keep the shutter down in the winter for insulation (old Belgian windows) and down in the summer (well, up about 6 inches) so that we can open the ground floor windows (again,old Belgian windows that only open WIDE - hello, burglars, in you come). But of course we never get daylight onto the floor (and ceiling)..oh, dear...

Antje M. Rauwerda said...

I find hanging out in the rooms where the sun isn't currently shining (back of the house in the morning, front in the afternoon) makes the whole appear much cleaner. (Back of the house in the afternoon? Eeeeeeeeee! The windows! The dust motes! The filthy floors!!!)
T-tree oil is very good for scaring ants away. Perhaps spiders too?

livesbythewoods said...

I find that going out helps.

Leave the house, and all associated filth and squalor, go elsewhere for an hour. When you come back, hey presto, you've probably taken your mind off it.


If that fails, I find that doing some ironing is handy - you have an actual end product to demonstrate your domesticity without having had to tackle the worst of the shite all over the house.

soleils said...

"I might need to do just that as my clothes are all mysteriously too small. I'd say they shrunk in the wash but they're all dirty too."
This made me smile first, and that smile was promptly wiped off my face when I realised that is EXACTLY what has happened to me over the winter.
So, I went to a Zumba class this morning. Caution: you must not be afraid of looking ridiculous (I kind of am but, after all, "Le ridicule ne tue pas"), but after "dancing" like a demented marionnette for a whole hour, I was smiling my (bright red) head off, so figured there is something to it (Note: I was seriously grumpy before the class).
Also: more energy. Also: I don't care about our pigsty, I mean *home* (it is revolting and we lose absolutely everything all the time).

Helen Brocklebank said...

I recommend going the full Anna Wintour. Everything looks much better when one wears a huge pair of sunspecs. One can leave the house with only a slash of bright lipstick and still looked pulled together (I believe this is fashion-speak for 'not frightening'). Also, if one wears sunglasses in the house, everything looks much cleaner, and rosier. If it works for La Wintour....

Miss Underscore said...

Oh, I hear you. I have been trying to kick start my Springtime healthy eating and pilates regime for the past 6 weeks. I've just had a terribly virtuous veggie couscous supper. Still bloody starving, so have put a jacket potato in the oven. I expect there will be butter. And cheese. And possibly even bacon.

I am also on the lookout for an industrial strength eye-cream. I am suddenly very aware of looking like W H Auden. It seems to have snuck up on me. Could Facegoop do an eye-cream investigation? I would be eternally grateful.

By the way. I came home to discover that the lurchers had got a 1kg bag of basmati rice in their covetous claws. They appear to have scattered it everywhere: carpets/ sofa/ bed. I haven't even hoovered it up yet. I am crunching everywhere I go. Tragic.

Anonymous said...

Am glad I am not the only one who has aged and whose clothes have all mysteriously shrunk. Also my hips have started to hurt when I try to 'jog' *stifles laugh.* Surely that is an old lady problem? Has all the aging happened because it is Spring then? Is that what we're saying? My house is a shit hole too. Am waiting for a hoover to come up on Freecycle.

Anonymous said...

I had to see a customer today so dug out my bargain 33-quid-from-TK-Maxx LK Bennett dress, never worn as I bought it when off work. Despite M&S suck-it-all-in tights, I looked like I felt - a dumpling in a wrap dress. Nine pounds of comfort eating home to roost. Unfortunately I am congenitally idle when it comes to house- or me-work. The only cleaning tip I can offer is that you only need a hoover. For carpets and curtains, natch, but for 'dusting' too. I have no desire to clean the windows as the bags under my eyes look bad enough as it is.

Z said...

Take your glasses off. I've been short-sighted for so long that I don't see past the end of my nose, whether I've got contact lens in or not. And I'm so old that I genuinely don't care. If it's me, it's U, as Maudie Littlehampton used to say.

Anonymous said...

I've had the bath panel off for a few days trying to appease the latest plumbing related disaster.

Now, I know it's not conventional "tidying", but I can tell you, that space under the bath is beginning to look very appealing. Out of sight and out of mind and all that.

Put the bath panel back on and voila.

Much less effort than actually getting rid of the dirt, just hide it in a place people won't think to check.

Good plan, right?

Waffle said...

Oh fuck, Neurotic notes. Mine has a panel removed too. I could just post shit into it until it filled up. Paperwork. Odd socks. Boring plastic shit belonging to children.

You all have excellent - slatternly - advice most of which could be summarised as 'don't look'. I like you all very much.

Miss Underscore, the WH Auden thing made me snort.

Innormality, I am also a dumpling today, in a skating skirt. They are supposed to be forgiving but my arse is so large it is deforming the pleats.

Anon - my hips ached just walking two children around London. Decrepitude.

Eliza said...

How about a skill swap? Find a insanely tidy friend and swap help with the cleaning for help with make-up/child minding etc

Eliza said...

Or you could just set the children to work in return for more Pokemon. My 5 year old nephew will happily wield a hoover (with varied results) in exchange for the chance to watch Star Wars or for a dollar coin (we're taking advantage of his ignorance about the astronomical cost of living in Vancouver).

Connie said...

I realize I must be one of those terribly boring people but here's my system if it helps. Each week I concentrate on one room- perhaps spending 15 minutes each day on it - the rest of the house is just kept tidy. If I didn't have a system of some sort, my thoughts about what I should be doing or have not done would take up too much psychological space.

Xtreme English said...

Check out

I do. She has lots of good ideas and things to do. When I finish reading, I find my compulsion to clean has passed, and I can relax again. I find my squalor comfy. A place for everything...hah...and nothing in its place.

Xtreme English said...

check out

a sure cure for wanting to clean...

Margaret said...

House-cleaning tips: Buy a tub of hypoallergenic, fragrance-free baby wipes. Use them to wipe all visible surfaces in kitchen and bathroom. Swiffer everything else. Have a wee gin-and-tonic. (My other tip, vis-a-vis vacuuming, was to buy an Oriental carpet because it hides a multitude of sins, but you said your budget was zero.)

WInter weight gain: No tips. I haven't been able to button my dress coat since just after Thanksgiving, and my long down coat zips up but I look like a sausage.

Grit said...

yesterday i threw 3 litres of antiseptic disinfectant at the bathroom walls, then directed the shower at them on the high intensity massage setting.

this was the result of new bff reminding me that black mould is poisonous and we will DIE. it must be true because i since read it on the internet. but v. useful regarding spring cleaning.

chiclit said...

Mr Clean Magic Eraser (buy generic store brand) they are sort of white foam spongy thing with cleaning solution. It will clean anything.

My Dachshund broke my vacuum cleaner (hoover). Don't ask. I am now lint rollering my carpet.

Also a friend stayed at my house two weeks ago. I still have the fold- out sofa bed, folded out. The dog and I have found we like having a bed in the middle of the living room.

kath (a different one) said...

Alas running is the only way not to have too small clothes if you wish to drink wine. And eat cheese. eat anything really. And it makes you all zen.

Momosyballic I entirely agree. I dare not look at the cooker between noon and 6pm for half the year.

Oh e cloths makes your bathroom tiles hotel room shiny but only if you buy the proper sort, not a dodgy one from Tchibo.

Pat (in Belgium) said...

Having just read about all your cleaning preparations, I find myself totally exhausted! I think it's time for a rummage in the fridge -- if I don't trip over the dust tumbleweeds en route.

wv "ressed" sounds like sussed? Or rested to a "t". Either way, the house remains filthy.

indigo16 said...

I too am feeling that pain, both housework and the ridiculous speed that gravity is pulling my face down.
Short of giving up work and putting my children into care before dumping the dog back in Battersea I am resigned to living like a slattern.
I try not to look in the mirror and have perfected a selective glance technique for applying make up in the morning after which the day is free of reflection.

I once read an interview with a basket ball player who moaned that where ever he went all he saw was the dirt onto of the door frames! So find him and marry him as he clearly can't see any lower! said...

Snorted with laughter! No cleaning tips, it's all too boring and onerous.

(@Margaret: I read your comment and actually thought I'd posted it and forgotten. Don't even want to think what that says about the state of my mind. I'd say 'great minds think alike' but I'm clearly the dim-witted sibling in this case.)

Anonymous said...

Spring-cleaning and the horros of spreadsheets and admin? In the same month?
I think you're going to have to delete the word slattern from your description.

Anonymous said...

horrorrrrrs, of course

Rhia said...

Grit- -i lol-ed to your cleaning technique as it was a) funny and b) the sort of thign Id do!

The flylady site is terrifying. Its just so..rigid.

I really dont like cleaning.

Veronica Wald said...

You know spring is here when:

Penelope Overton said...

Don't want to be political, particularly, but I've counted possibly one man in the whole of this comment list (and that's only going on the photo). How come the filth in the house is female responsibility - are we the only ones who shed skin cells? That hammock of cobweb swinging between the mirror and the curtain rail is nothing to do with me.

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