Housekeeper’s Diary

By Alison March 29, 2023 No Comments 6 Min Read

The flowers are wilting now but they were beautiful while they lasted. (How true that is of too many things). A hand-painted glass jug Mum and I found the one and only time I can remember her being in a charity shop, a jug we tussled over and she claimed, but which would eventually be mine to fill with a rainbow of roses exhausted by the heat from the radiator.

On the kitchen windowsill, a wild bouquet, fancier than it has the right to be with the inclusion of the palest of apricot cala lilies. A white pot of lemon daffodils on the dining room table and a tiny, heartfelt posy of fragrant lavender hyacinths on my bedside table.

I feel lucky. I always feel lucky when I have flowers, and when in the aftermath of a special occasion, there is an abundance, I barely know how to manage that sense of too many blessings to count. Too many blessings. Could that be true when there is so very much astray here? But yes, somehow it is.

For it isn’t just a florist shop of flowers and gorgeous birthday gifts I am grateful for, but all the ordinary too. The top with the holes in that used to fit like a second skin but is now baggy and still beloved. Meep who has perfected my morning hello and repeats it back to me with added urgency for good measure. My neighbour, who knocks for parcels and delights me with gossip from a lane which is at once too much with me and yet so far beyond the isolation of my living room. The ivy I have no idea what to do about, crawling over the roof of the outhouse, wild, untamed and admirable in its determination to devour the brick. The baked oats I have been eating for breakfast dressed up with cocoa nibs, flaxseed and chopped ginger (oh bliss). The almond polish I meditatively rub into battered pine of the coffee table. (An act that feels like a prayer). The silly little noise I make when I finally make it between the sheets each night.

All this and people. Finn’s gorgeous girlfriend, Rebekah, her presence soothing and stilling his inner busy. Racheal who managed magnificently when I overheated again in a pub last week (my inner thermometer is all over the shop, though the doctor tells me it is simply hormonal and thyroidy and not cause for worry). A reliable, funny man who sets out at all hours of the night to pick our respective sons up and whom I know I can call on should Finn find himself in trouble. My sister’s boy-man, Gabriel (now 21!) who has sat here in my living room for the past three days talking out loud about all things nutrition and body-building (one of which I understand and the other that remains a mystery beyond the hilariously impressive biceps I have developed from swinging my weights as I boil the kettle a hundred times a day – Though Finn tells me I have confused the very concept of kettle-bell!).

All this change. And still more to come. I cannot stay in this house beyond July next year and I know that wherever I move to next will be smaller and I will need to lose so very much of all that I have collected over the years. To downsize my house like I’m downsizing my body: with slow, sure and committed daily action. So that there is always another bin bag of wot-nots to be recycled or given away lurking in the hallway and my mind always on what is no longer necessary to keep as I pull open drawers and peek inside wardrobes in search of more goodbyes. This then is the relentless editing of what no longer matters and I suppose, what no longer serves me and while it feels somewhat overwhelming, it is also revelatory, as that which once felt important falls away leaving space for all that is gently earning a place in home, heart and head, no matter how hard I might rail against it, avoid commitment to what is new or even want to acknowledge farewells already spoken.

What strikes me most though is how little control we have over all things. How we cannot keep alive what is now dead, nor grasp on to driftwood breaking into pieces, anymore than we could revive those wilting flowers on my window-ledge, so extracting ourselves gracefully really is the only answer. One must not keep flogging dead horses, but instead bury them with as much dignity as it is possible to muster!

And you really didn’t think it would happen But it really is the end of the line So I’m sorry that you turned to driftwood But you’ve been drifting for a long, long time

Driftwood. Travis, 2006

It is hard. All of it is hard, because as yet there is no stability, nor real closure and I find that intensely discombobulating. I cannot find peace when I know there is change around the corner so exist in a perpetual state of anxiety, trying always to latch on to what is, without worrying about what might be, or raging about what should be (though let it be known I am no angel and last week let that rage fly in a torrent of vicious words because just occasionally – but only with due cause – I am a biatch and cannot hold it in…). But I anchor myself as best as I can regardless. To the wellbeing routines I nurture and enjoy. The company I anticipate with pleasure. The cup of coffee that gets me out of my patchwork cocoon in the morning, the books stacked on my read-me-next shelf, and the short trots around the block I take at dusk, peeking into other people’s lives before they draw the curtains and make what was public, private all over again.

Today then. Irrational sadness about the death of an entertainer I adored. Mark on his way as always. Finley lounged across the living room, remote control in hand. Rebekah due to arrive later and a mushroom chilli bubbling in a new slow cooker I had to buy after I popped the ceramic inner of the last one into the oven and melted the lid to a black, plastic puddle. A new slow cooker the man behind me in the queue at Tesco was so excited about me buying, he declared it NEW SLOW COOKER DAY and asked if I fancied company for its inaugural outing! An offer I had to turn down because a person mustn’t go about procuring dates in the supermarket even if this man was the proud possessor of the kind of beard I could have happily tickled.

(NOTE to self: also mustn’t run fingers through stranger’s beards in the supermarket).

And then tomorrow. Lunch in a new vegetarian cafe with my Debbie, Finn to be delivered back to uni so he can pack up his chaos for Easter and then later, an evening in the company of the man who ferrys him around. Letting myself laugh. Letting myself be silly and happy again for the night.

The flowers are wilting now, but I will never forget, they were beautiful while they lasted.

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