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Do I really have to put up with this filth? Spring clean time

PUBLISHED: 10:11 20 March 2017 | UPDATED: 17:07 20 March 2017

Lynne Mortimer is tooled up for spring cleaning... but first, a cup of tea

Lynne Mortimer is tooled up for spring cleaning... but first, a cup of tea


The nearly-spring sunshine has affected my supermarket online order. The great tits are investigating the bird box and I am beset by the urge to buy cleaning products, writes Lynne Mortimer.

There comes a time in life, it seems, when the urgent desire to reproduce is overtaken by the need to clean under the dishwasher.

If you were to ask me in 2017 which I prefer, I would have to give it some careful thought.

Why do I have a longing to clean my house? Don’t ask me. In one newspaper article, last week, I read that if I do too much around the house it’s my own fault.

The Unmade Bed, by Stephen Marche, explores the relationship men and women have with housework and each other. “Housework is the macho b******t of women,” he writes as if it was a defining aspect of femininity. His argument continues along the lines that men won’t do more housework and so the solution must be that women should do less.

In other words, forget what’s lurking under the dishwasher, don’t run your finger along the dado rail, simply get used to living with a bit of filth by which I do not mean the well-thumbed copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover on the bookshelf but the mucky appearance of the bookshelf itself.

Now – and this is not exactly a revelation – I live with a man. Let’s call him my husband, because he is. But (and I hope I am not putting words in his mouth... I’ll check later) he is no acolyte of this home Marchenomics guru and, in nearly 39 years of marriage, never has been.

It was established early on that neither of us liked ironing, changing beds, hoovering, scrubbing floors, and cleaning windows and so we share such detestable tasks. I hate ironing... and yet my mum used to iron socks and knickers. I’m glad I missed out on that gene.

Likewise in the garden, my husband loves pruning and planting, weeding and digging while I like to supervise by banging on the kitchen window and gesticulating where he should put his hollyhocks (novel suggestions on a postcard, please).

In the early 80s, my husband was at home with baby Ruth while I worked and he did the bulk of the housework. In the mid eighties, I took a career break and did the bulk of the housework while he went out to work. There was even a short period of time during those years when I made Yorkshire puddings from scratch.

After five years of this domesticity I think I did begin to adopt an air of martyrdom although I was hardly a beacon of cleanliness. Watching telly one evening, I was once startled by an army of ants on a route march across the sitting room floor. I was sitting on the sofa and a line of single-minded ants was disappearing under my seat cushion before filing out again and disappearing under the patio doors at the far end of the dining room. I jumped to my feet, pushed away the cushion and discovered the main attraction – half a grape down the side of the sofa.

My son is very particular about aspects of housework... it might be because he had a close encounter with a Windolene bottle when he was two. The pink ring around his mouth panicked me into taking him straight to A&E. Fast forward 16 years to when he was in the upper sixth at school and thus at home more often than not, he did a bit of housework around the place. One day, I arrived back from work to find a large notice above the kitchen sink: “Do not leave teaspoons in the washing up bowl. Mark.”

This attention to tidiness in the kitchen did not, however, stop him leaving dirty plates and tea mugs under his bed.

• I had my “give me more HRT!” appointment with the doctor, last Wednesday, but when I got to the surgery I found out she was off sick. I was told another doctor would ring me at home on Friday. This was to be my first telephone appointment with a doctor. Just as well I haven’t broken out in a rash. That’s got to be hard to diagnose on the phone.

“Where is it? Does it itch? It’s all right, you’re not on speaker.”


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