Housekeeper’s Diary

By Alison June 13, 2024 6 Min Read

Last night’s dreams were serenaded by a gentle coo-ing in the chimney breast that at first I though I must be imagining. But as I came to I realised that I was indeed listening to a little bird singing in my wall. A bird I presume was trapped but singing anyway. A bird that had either found her way out by morning-time or had fallen silent in despair.

Some evenings are surreal aren’t they? You climb into bed convinced that tiredness will have her way with you and before you know it thoughts are bouncing round your head like so many yappy spaniels and there is a bird cooing in the wall. Sleep comes and goes, sometimes a deep dive into a complex, ridiculous dream, sometimes what feels like a war to simply keep your eyes shut. A battle between body and mind. Legs twitching under the quilt. Sweat pooling between your breasts. A moth swooping into your eyeline whenever you switch your phone on to work out just how much longer you will need to endure it all till sleep swoops in just before the lorries start thundering up and down the lane.

Now it is morning. I managed three hours slumber all in all and here I am, typing again. The tap that holds my words suddenly turned on and spilling out everywhere so that even the texts I am sending are verbose and emotional, sharp and true. It feels good. I worry about myself when a hush descends because I am a singer, a teller of really silly jokes, (this duck walks in to a bar…) a story teller, a giggler, a speaker of truth and a (random) noise maker. My house is loud, my mouth always running away with me. No-one quite safe from my oft ludicrous opinion.

Today then. Despite a silly night, I am alert and alive. I am wandering the house, the cat shouting at my feet, for he too has got way too much to say for himself, and nearly loses his shouty mind should Finley take it into his head to boil the kettle (something Meep considers an absolute TRAVESTY), or I, in my obvious madness, touch my feet, at which point he will race from wherever he might be to stand and yell at me for taking liberties with my own toes. I am folding laundry, stroking almond polish (oh how I love you Method Almond Wood Polish) into the battered old wood of the dining room table, matching the wires that seem to be everywhere to devices and plugs, and nipping in and out of the garden to carry on chopping at the ivy threatening to wrap the entire house in slugs and snails.

The house feels stale and it is a state I can hardly bear, though can often drift through weeks at a time oblivious to her gloom. (Similar to how it is quite possible for me to not notice the light falling each evening until suddenly it is unbearable, the shift from dove white to the dishwater grey of dusk enough to induce a sort of panic so that I cannot hear what is being said or focus upon anything until there is the gentlest of lamplight to offer hope again). Yes, it is gloomy. And only an afternoon totally dedicated to lifting the spirits of this tumbledown Victorian semi-detached will do. Hot water and frothy bubbles. Essential oils. Elbow grease. Junk filed and stacked and binned. Large child turfed out of his bed so I can strip it. Rugs battered and straightened. Teeny little DIY demands attended to for a person should not go on risking life and limb stepping over a threshold when a little glue or a hammer and nails could solve a splitting floorboard problem and prevent the kind of accident that could quickly do her a damage. And a good hour spent getting into the nooks and crannies with the hoover, which I shall call exercise and congratulate myself for with a Hotel Chocolat violet creme from my much depleted stash.

I will feed the child scrambled eggs and warm, not very buttery toast, and because it is a ritual of sorts that we both adore, split a tin of pineapple rings with him while we watch an episode of Impractical Jokers it seems I have been recording for six months. He is not quite home for the Summer yet, torn about being here because it is so much easier for him to nip in and out to work from his student house, but when he is here, it is as familiar and precious as it ever was, only blessed now with the bemused, all grown-up, tolerant smile he offers me as I witter randomly about my favourite cardigan (green) and the state of British politics, while he seeks out music videos to soothe me and wanders in and out of the kitchen carrying glasses of lemonade or cups of tea for us both and I burst with quiet pride because he is just glorious. Then later, a long afternoon bath before I drive Finn back and Ben arrives, for an evening sorting our worlds out sitting on the salad in the conservatory. I will cook and talk his legs off and he will giggle at me and fight Meep out of his hair and all shall be well and complex and beautiful and just enough for now.

And then the day will be over. And there is much I haven’t told you. I haven’t said that last week the electricity died and for a blissful afternoon I sat in utter silence, my lane closed, so that the woodpigeons once again felt safe to gather in rows along the fence and counsel each other in a chorus of song. I haven’t told you that on Saturday, my Kath and Emma and I walked Liverpool on a Taylor Swift tour of our city, which mostly involved us lining up with teeny Taylor tribute acts, and me taking pictures of my silly friends sat within the installations dedicated to her albums dotting the streets. I didn’t say that a little bit more of my troublesome tooth crumbled away after a run in with a slice of bacon and I haven’t said that left to my own devices right now I eat Caprese salad and watch Canal Boat diaries by candle-light, while I gua-sha my face and string together a book I am just beginning to write in my head. A new challenge. For just as houses get stale, so too do minds and there comes a day when as Anais Nin so eloquently said, the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

(Aside: how odd that my two favourite quotes, this one by Anais Nin, and another from Katherine Mansfield – Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinion of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth – should both be about risk when what to do is weighing so heavily on my mind).

Now it is raining. A light persistent drizzle I find irritating. Do it or don’t! Thunder down in huge dramatic teardrops or don’t do it at all! Don’t sit in half-light! Refuse to accept that you, little bird, are trapped forever in the chimney. Switch the lamps on, dance in the rain, rage against the brick that would have you stuck for always.

And sing! Please sing. Sing yourself to beautiful sleep and wake up ready and willing to do it all again tomorrow. Because these are days of our lives and we owe it to ourselves to keep polishing our way out of the gloom.

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