Housekeeper’s Diary

By Alison November 4, 2020 8 Comments 6 Min Read

A glorious morning. We go for a walk hand in hand, kicking leaves and talking the troubles of the world over. There is a peace about us now. The kind of peace that only comes with quiet resolution and I suppose a sort of emotional revolution. A settling in that feels astonishing after the turbulence of deep-rooted anxiety about who he was and who we were destined to be.

We go home and the business of the day resumes. I follow my own daily to-do list and Ste assumes his position in front of the computer, while upstairs Finn drags a hoodie on and tries to look presentable for his online college lesson. The house hums with activity and I resist switching on the television to count votes with the rest of the world, because my blood pressure has already had one tantrum this week and I’m not sure I’m up to another. And anyway there are plants to watered. And sinks to be shined. And breakfast to be eaten, because I am on a diet that will rather insist on breakfast, though I have done my upmost to get through forty-eight years without assaulting my stomach in such a manner, unless of course I am in the luxury of a hotel or it is the fourth Sunday of the month because I am a woman who leans upon routine for support and not having a sumptuous breakfast on the fourth Sunday of the month, would obviously bring the house of cards that is my life crashing to the ground, don’t you know?

So yes. I go about my business. I water said houseplants, spill said water on sideboard and to my horror, promptly wipe away cream paint to reveal green paint and huff and puff and decide to pretend such travesty did not happen and promptly head into the garden to stare at my anaemic, jaundiced beans, and have a word with the wood pigeons who are frankly making a mess on the bird table and who politely respond by nearly pecking each other to death and don’t seem at all put out by the fact that I am witnessing the kind of behaviour that clearly deserves an avian ASBO.

Where once upon a time my day would be my own, now people ask me questions, like “Would you like a cup of tea?” and “What time is lunch?”. While my inner troglodyte is appalled by such outrages, I am learning to unpick the resentment that is so tightly wrapped around my responses, and accept that life is different now: the house was never mine alone, and it is theirs to make a life in too. That I cannot be a part-time Mother and Partner only clocking on according to the whims of my own inner schedule. That I am both in, and of this family and they deserve my attention regardless of my own yearning for my own head. So I am polite, but as soon as I am able, escape to the sanctuary that is my bedroom. I sip tea and talk to my Dad. Then I do my yoga on the wildly patterned rug and lie for a while with my legs up against the wardrobe, quiet in my head as lorries thunder by and Finley laughs at loud at a lesson that is clearly hilarious.

I write. Putting the final touches to my next HomeSchool bundle, writing a reference for Mark, and answering the many, many emails I receive daily. Ste brings me a glass of lemon water and then I go down to sweep a path that is a riot of gravel flung from next door’s long drive and leaves that are throwing a party in our garden while apparently wanting nothing to do with the rest of the houses on the lane. I feel alive today. The chopping and change of emotions from one day to the next now merely weather I am learning to anticipate. My sister Facetimes. Ste makes us all a spinach omelette. Finley asks what time we will be watching Bojack Horseman, a daily ritual of such televisual fun and misery that I both abhor and adore it, and I potter about dusting photo-frames and refreshing vases full of ornamental cabbages and deep red berries before I am compelled to sit down and lose myself in a world where some men are horses and others are gorgeous Labradors. A world that makes no sense on paper but then why should it: ours is almost certainly no more sane.

Tomorrow, another lockdown. A watered down affair beset by trivial rules while seemingly ignoring huge great chasms of common-sense. But oh the opportunities for bookish hibernation! I am not thinking yet of Christmas because my mind will not let me plan anything that might all too quickly change before it arrives. But I am thinking of stacks of books and rainy afternoons cosied up under patchwork quilts. I am looking forward to the lane falling silent again, to shopping trips planned like military operations, in which I, Mistress of my own army, will go forth and send out my best man to acquire the endless supply of Quorn mince he rather seems to think we will not survive without. I am thinking of the anxiety of sending my son to college, to mix in groups far bigger than the government says it is safe to mix in, and of all those I haven’t seen for such a long time, as we all take root in our own homes, in order to make the lives of those suffering on our behalves as easy as we are capable of making them in the face of what is surely daily trauma on the wards.

In all honesty I am experiencing the most complex embroidery of emotion: at once looking forward to something I despise because of the very reason for its existence. At the same time deeply resenting my own privilege in being able to stay safe at home, while knowing it is only possible because others will keep turning up for work. And worried that I am not performing the pantomime that is preparing for Christmas while being so very grateful that this year we may not have to: that this may be the year when the ostentatious mores of festive seasons gone by might just be replaced by something more intimate, something truly meaningful.

Tonight though: ferrying Finley to the doctors and back, then ferrying him back again to attend a socially distanced drum lesson. A bath while he is gone. The lighting of candles all around the room so that when he comes in after a walk back through the village, rosy-cheeked and inspired, he will find a room twinkly with welcome. Ste already in his “strides” as he likes to call his pyjamas and me content on the sofa, Kindle in hand as always. A moment in time I know is slipping away: for Finn is seventeen and will not be mine for always. But for now he is mine to cover in kisses of delight as if he has been gone for days. Mine on which to bestow hugs he receives with tolerance far greater than other boys his age might, because he is kind, and he understands my need to smother him, trusting me always never to suffocate him with maternal possession, while Ste looks on amused and bewildered for his was not a house that hugged.

How I love them: my boys. How hard we have all fought to get to this moment when all is well inside our own four walls, even when so very much is falling apart beyond them. This then is what it has all been for: the sanctity of home.


  1. Kelly says:

    A lovely writing Alison. ♥️?♥️

    1. Alison says:

      Thank you Lovely Lady!x

  2. Barbara Schmidt says:

    You put your thoughts to paper- or computer- so poetically. Thank you for sharing with us. I’ve been musing on life changes this week myself. For me, it’s currently deciding which dreams are no longer practical and being content with the here and now. I read once that if you haven’t grown up by age 50, you don’t have to. Maybe… but you still need to deal with the changes that make you into who you will become.

    1. Alison says:

      Some of growing up really is knowing which dreams to set aside so you can wholly focus on nurturing what already is, isn’t it Barbara? (But I’m all for never growing up at all!)x

  3. Barbara Ann says:

    You have a lovely way of putting into words the uncertain feelings we are experiencing and balancing those with thoughtful and kind alternatives. Balance is so important now. Focusing on all the negatives will surely drive us over the edge so I so appreciate your seeing the sunshine peeking thru the dark clouds.

  4. I absolutely agree with the mixed feelings of feeling both grateful and perhaps guilty for the privilege of being able to stay safe at home while others cannot. I must say, however, I wish our country would lock down in light of our skyrocketing cases. Or at the very least, implement a meaningful country-wide mask mandate. This is going to be a dark winter…

  5. Helena says:

    That all sounds lovely and peaceful. Thank you for sharing, as it takes me–mentally, at least–away from the chaos currently reigning here in the US.

  6. Lee says:

    Thank you for the lovely way you express love and frustration with the proximity of those you love! Helps keep the rest of us sane! ❤️

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