I’ve been cap-budged again. My new team leader (Safety) asked me whether I was, basically, a safety Walla or a fluid-systems one. I told him I was, basically, in the fluid-systems camp and he put a tick in the box. Could be expensive that; they’re paying £45+ per hour for safety work down at Devonport. Come on down, the price is right.
‘You and Jane are my total resource,’ he said sadly. His rimless specs glinting in the artificial light, his belly pressing into mine, ‘and she’s only part time.’
Too true, blue - but only in part. ‘That’s right,’ I said, ever helpful. ‘Jane’s only part time.’
Jane puts in two days a week doing the probabilistic bits, It’s 10-n city where she comes from; I do the wordy bits, if it’s weasel words you want, I’m your man.
So I told him. I thus justified my continued existence in this make-believe world.
We were about to be audited and he wanted to be sure I was SQUEP *. It is a bit late if I’m not. He would soon find out, anyway, I had my mind on higher things. Like potted shrimp and urticaria, like Gary Glitter and the right to roam, like the goings on in Kelly’s luv shack ‘dot’ com, and ankle socks. Especially ankle socks.
Back at the ranch, the light of my life had noticed that the cleaners had neglected to do under the microwave and she was out for their blood.
‘We all make mistakes.’ I told her lightly, seeking to defuse the situation, ‘It’s not an easy job.’
’Tell me about it.’ She agreed to settle for having a quiet word next time they came ’cos she didn’t really want to get them into trouble. This, I thought, was very sporting of her, all things considered. Another crisis neatly averted.
There are two of them, and very comely they are too. I wouldn’t have known this unless I happened to be off one day last August when it was hot and sultry. One does upstairs and the other downstairs settled by democratic vote. After briefing them, the lady of the house took herself off to the conservatory, as is her wont, to do some lace.
‘I put the stuff out, tell them what I want doing and leave them to get on with it. You can go and play on the computer.’ A trifle waspish I thought but I let it pass.
She emptied the Dyson before they came, so she could do a before-and-after comparison of the dog hairs in the thing as a measure of their zeal. It’s part of our in-house QA apparently and I never knew. No one tells me anything. There are no flies on my wife.
I thought no more about matters domestique until I felt the need to stretch my legs and see what was what. See what they were like in other words. So, full of confidence, she who misses nothing safely elsewhere, I wandered out onto the landing, sparkling repartee close to hand. The plan was to feign surprise and open with a cheery, ‘Oh sorry, didn’t know there was anyone here.’ or some such nonsense and take it from there but it came unglued the moment I opened the bathroom door.
Young she was, with red hair a pleasing disposition and a winsome toothy smile, cheeky withal. ‘Hiyah,’ she said, bold as brass - a waif-like chickeroo, duster in one hand Windowlene in the other, dressed in nothing more than a sweatshirt, shorts and socks. Yellow knitted ankle socks to which my eyes were drawn as filings to a magnet. She’d left her shoes at the bottom of the stairs for me to fall over - as I discovered later, the hard way. ‘Oh, hello,’ I managed weakly, before swiftly departing to the safety of the office, words oh so clever tumbling in my brain. Lord of the manor in full retreat, tongue cleft firmly to roof of mouth.
I had forgotten they made them like that, though I should have known better. I spent most of 1998 working at Simon Carves and their cleaners were always worth doing some overtime for - especially the one that did the ground floor conference rooms and entrance lobby. She wore socks too, if memory serves; sometimes boots if you were lucky.
Later I found the pair of them in the kitchen giggling over the entrails of my single-person cafetiere, which they had taken to bits with a view to cleaning and couldn’t put back together. I used this in part mitigation of their alleged dereliction in the matter of the crumbs under the microwave but to no avail. Stripping my equipment to its bare essentials, whilst not actually constituting breach of contract, indeed, arguably, demonstrating commendable enthusiasm, was, strictly speaking, beyond their remit. The microwave, on the other hand, wasn’t. I think that was the gist of what she said, she of the fluffy slippers and funky hairdo. But I won out for once and they live to clean another day. It was the thought of trawling through Yellow Pages again for ‘Cleaning Services – Domestic’ that clinched it in the end. Good old Yellow Pages – not just for the bad things in life.
But that was last summer, a long time ago, and now Christmas looms menacingly large on the horizon. Going for simplicity this year, no time to muck about. Electric carving knives all round for each of our offspring and their partners, some jewellery for my ever-loving soul’s delight - maybe some Estèe Lauder if I’m up to it. And ankle socks, pink ones - they’ll have to be pink. She always looks washed out in yellow but she looks great in pink. Always did.
She who must be obeyed has pointed out that for once there are no rude words and how nice that is. She’s right, you know, she’s absolutely right. Bugger me with a curtain rod and fittings if she isn’t.
Written: 5 November 2000.