Day Ten

Clean the house by vacuuming everything to within an inch of its life and feel amazed slash horrified at how much dust – dead skin – two adults (one of whom, namely the husband, is fully grown but still quite immature), two under-tens and a passive aggressive tabby can create in five days.

Things I learn that can in fact be vacuumed that I previously didn’t think could be vacuumed:

  • A large white lampshade called “kura”.
  • A flat screen telly.
  • A miniature statue of the Buddha that Babe bought back from her trip to Cambodia.
  • A bowl of fruit, but only with the soft furnishings attachment attached.
  • The blue controller of a Nintendo Wii.

Things I learn you cannot vacuum:

  • A small wooden door that once opened leads to Fairy Land, but only for true believers. (Nailed to the wall.)
  • A unicorn-horn hairbrush. (Awkward shape.)
  • A 1 litre bottle of lubricating jelly. (Costcutter own-brand.)
  • A cat. (Ours.)

Think about how to reduce the amount of dust in future and consider shaving every last follicle of hair from my body. I would glide through water like a tiger shark marinated in Johnson and Johnson baby oil. Maybe I should use my beard trimmer on the cat. A number one all over should do the trick.

Text the cleaner to apologise that we won’t be needing her services any longer because we’ve had to downgrade from middle class to upper working class and can’t afford her any more.

She replies: “Thanks Lee. I appreciate the message and sorry to hear you have had to lower your social status again, but I haven’t cleaned your house for five and a half years.”

“Oh. Sorry. Who does?”

“Your wife. She took over when you had to downgrade from middle middle class to lower middle class.”

“Good God you’re right Vicky. I do remember. Thank you. And may I say how I never fail to be amazed by your virtually native-level fluency in English!”


Decide it’s best not to reply. She seems upset. Maybe I shouldn’t have used an exclamation mark.

Babe calls from the car. Waitrose have sectioned the car park. I check whether she means they have sedated it and carted it off to Broadmoor or simply divided it into sections allowing one car in, one car out. She tuts.

“I could be a while. And I didn’t wrap up warm enough.”

Reassure her by telling her to turn the air con to red, roll up the windows and sing a lullaby to calm her fiery soul.

“Ha. Ha. It’s bloody freezing!”

“You’ve handled worse.”


“That time we picked up the new car and I drove us into a blizzard on the M1, when you were seven months pregnant and we had no food or water with us, remember?”

“Oh yes. I remember.”

Babe calls me 40 minutes later. She’s at the front of the queue to get into the shop. She has a runny nose.

I ask if she’s planning to buy any frozen food.

“No. Why?”

“Arturio’s fridge freezer is caput.”

“Oh no! Tell him to turn it on and off again if it’s a John Lewis one. That’s what I did with ours and it worked a treat.”

“I’ll let him know.”

Josh, a friend, calls to say he’s outside the house. I open the door. He’s dressed like I imagine a Mexican gang member would who lives in a cold climate: a red and blue puffer jacket with a green bandana wrapped around his face. Or, a modern day Dick Turpin without a horse.

We chat. He’s OK. We’re OK. We marvel at the quiet streets and wonder if corona was a man-made virus designed to crush Western civilisation or merely subdue it while the person who unleashed it usurps power.

Babe calls back. 

“I showed my NHS pass to the lady at the front of the queue and she told me I could have come straight in and not queued for 40 minutes, but there was no sign outside saying I could do that.”

Consider tweeting Waitrose: Make your keyworker signage at sectioned car parks clearer and more prominent please! Please use CAPS! Not a mix of upper and lowercase cursive.

Arturio texts me. He’s fixed his fridge freezer. He tried the off and on trick just to placate Babe. It did not work. He fixed it using his knowledge of plumbing and electrics, learned from years of fixing cars and all manner of other gadgets with his dad as a teenager. We agree I should not tell Babe her advice didn’t work.