How clean is my house?

Don't ask.Here we are, the two of us, living in a family home which is starting to look a little shabby.

How clean is my house?

It is time to take stock.

Here we are, the two of us, living in a family home which is starting to look a little shabby.

When it was full of son and daughter and then son and girlfriend I hardly noticed the join in the coving and that wavy bit of carpet where someone spilt the water out of a vase of flowers and forgot to mention it... for several days.


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The books and papers that have piled up in the study are features of the corporate lack of attention to detail that besets busy households. There are holiday documents dating back to the pleasant stop-over at that B&B in Pompeii.

But things will have to change as we are shortly expecting a visit from inspectors from the Office for Standards in Housing Stock (Ofshock).

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Like Ofsted in schools, this organisation checks up on every aspect of your home, conduct, standards and attainment as well as compliance with the national housework curriculum. The inspectors give you a few weeks notice of their visit so that you can have all the paperwork ready for them.

After some preliminary feedback, the household is then sent a full report of its operation which can range from excellent through to poor and execrable.

If standards are found to be less than acceptable, a household can be deemed to have serious weaknesses or indeed, be subject to special measures.

In the event of such an outcome, you will have wear a placard round your neck stating your shameful shortcomings. It is unlikely that your neighbours will ever talk to you again.

And before you dismiss this as the fanciful meanderings of a feeble mind (although you would be right) - just think back to the days when you wouldn't think twice before helping up a child who had fallen over and grazed his or her knee - the days before the natural instinct to go to someone's aid was stifled by bureaucracy and mistrust.

Remember the time when parenting was freeform and not a prescriptive set of guidelines designed to induce parental guilt from day one of your child's life?

Ofshock could happen and it might be something like this:-

Kitchen Inspection: How many food labels are stuck to the interior of the fridge. Does the home owner know the contents of the dozen or so foil-wrapped items dotted around the fridge? How old is the half packet of whitebait in the freezer (fashionable as a starter in 1985)? Is there a teaspoon languishing at the bottom of washing up bowl full of tepid foamy water? Has anything on the draining board been there more than a week? How many tins of lentils have a use-by date prior to 2006?

Sitting room: Estimate the probable time since anyone vacuumed under the furniture. Calculate the last time someone cleared out the DVD cupboard by seeking out the earliest TV-to-video recording of a children's programme. (eg He-Man and She-Ra, Thundercats, Cities of Gold etc). Send the Ofshock ferret down the back of the settee to see if Lord Lucan is down there. Check the less accessible bookshelves... not the worthy Shakespeare collection, Tolstoy's War and Peace and the erudite selection of drama neatly arranged at eye-level, what's that on the top shelf, far left? Is it a volume of Readers' Digest condensed classics? Is it next to Dan Brown's greatest hits... and did I spot William Shatner's autobiography up there too?

Dining Room: Count the number of half-burned tea-lights in the room - evidence of candlelit suppers. Check the contents of the CD player for naff compilations such as Greatest Love Song (sic) of the 80s or dubious cover albums like Orville the Duck sings Queen.

Bedroom: Find the receptacle for odd socks (there will be one) and count them. Look under the bed and calculate the amount of dust by multiplying the depth of the fluff by the length and width of the bed.

Bathroom: How many part-used tubes of toothpaste, rolls of toilet tissue, bars of soap, bottles of bath foam are there?

Spare bedroom: How much junk has been stored in the guest wardrobe, guest chest of drawers and under the guest bed.

General: The homeowners will invariably be able to produce batches of Christmas receipts dating back to 1978 but will they be able to find receipts for any household appliances under two years' old?

- Estimate the last time a visit was paid to the bottle bank.

- Check over the household supply of crockery and glassware - is there a complete set of anything?

- Do any of the ball-point pens in the desk tidy actually work?

- Can you find the hidden tins of Cadbury's Roses and Quality Street that were supposed to be for Christmas but appear to have been opened already?

- Is there any liquid left in the plug-in room fragrance?

This survey will be followed by observation - the inspectors will watch you complete every day tasks and assess performance; eg How many homeowners does it take to change a light bulb?

The ancient company of knee flashers

Thank you to everyone who has had the same knee operation as me and has taken the time to lift their skirt or up a trouser leg to show me.

In fact, so common is the op that I am starting to think I must be the last person to have had it.

It is amazing how characterful a knee can be. Mine has the look of Les Dawson but I have seen a Gordon Ramsay, a Zippy from Rainbow, one of Raphael's cherubs and an assortment of wistful assorted dogs - Pekinese, pugs etc

With so many lily-white legs on display in public places it must, at times, have seemed as if Sainsbury et al were hosting meetings of a Freemasons' lodge.

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