Tuesday, 10 July 2007

How the other half lives

Ermintrude has been telling me about the last time she was an au pair in England. She says it was last year. And it was a big house in Buckinghamshire. 'It was...', says Ermintrude, staring around her at our kitchen which has had tin cans hanging down from the ceiling since January pretending to be Persian lanterns, 'It was a very big, big house. Weez lots of space to move'.

Well, Ermintrude. This is a bit of a come down, quite frankly. Our kitchen is now so cluttered with child art and furniture brought back from the tip that we have imposed a one-way system as the only way to maintain the free-flow of bodies. And we do not have a huge lounge with three sofas and picture windows over the estate. We have the front room and a hedge. We have no swimming pool. We have a drain in the yard that is blocked. And we do not have a grand entrance with columns and a great door. We have two outer doors which do not shut thanks to Mr Bumface who screwed the handles on the wrong way round, due either to his spite or ignorance, I cannot tell which.

In fact as Ermintrude describes her previous accommodation the only thing I can find in common with the Lady Cee - who is at this moment lounging on her big cream leather sofa somewhere in Buckinghamshire - is that right now both of us might be found at home. But whereas Lady Cee will be decoratively lounging on a selection of sofas I can be found hiding in the office wearing yesterday's old clothes waiting until the leaking shower is free.

Well, at least Ermintrude is not sorrowful about her change of status, which swings in her favour. She says she has got used to holding down the oven door with her foot, the drip in the toilet and the way the doorhandles come off in your hand. She says she has learned to step over the wobbly floorboard and knows how to deal with the fact there is no fridge.

And when today the sink blocked and I produced an industrial strength sink plunger brought for me as a Christmas present by Squirrel, she laughs. Probably for a good fifteen minutes, actually, which I thought was a bit over the top for a sink plunger, but I can forgive her.

I think laughter is a good thing. It may help preserve her sanity when I tell her the history of the electric socket, the light in the bathroom, the upstairs front window, the kitchen fan, and the hole in the ceiling.

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