We try to keep the living room tidy so we have a room to collapse in with no clutter.
Mr HB did a bit of re-decorating the other day there (I’m not allowed to paint, because I’m no good at it) and the house was upside down for about a week. I walked into the living room one day and the little round table had:
a book, some newspapers, a pile of nerdy-geek cards belonging to the kids, an empty glass, and a bowl with crumbs in the bottom
And I remembered it used to be in the living room of my childhood home, because this is what it looked like – only back then would have been the Radio Times, the yellow space-invaders game, a tea mug, and a crisp packet folded into a triangle by my sister.
The Delights of Domesticity
There ARE actually one or two things that I appreciate about working from home. They include:
- Following the sunlight around from room to room as the sun arcs in the sky.
- Lavender dead-heading. It’s aromatic, repetitive and curiously calming.
- Pumelling the pillows when I’m angry. Plus the duvets too, for good measure!
- Drying the washing outside in the wind. It smells so much fresher than airing it on the radiators…
- Inviting friends around for dinner. The simpler the cuisine the better – so that I can keep my focus on the sizzling conversations we have.
- When Beloved cleans up uninvited. (Hmm. What’s his angle?)
- Having my own chair, which is MINE.
- Creating Penny’s Ironing Rules. Minimal ironing. Period.
- Nurturing next door’s cat. He’s Nero to me…
- Tracking the bats that flit about in the streets at moonrise.
Today I have been thinking about…pee.
In a house with two boys under ten, it’s all about the pee. Banning ‘toilet talk’ from the table doesn’t help with the other 23 hours. The word ‘butt’ reigned: until last week, when they graduated to the word ‘booty.’ I’ve gone to zero tolerance mode on the state of the toilet. If I arrive in the bathroom and it is not even up to my lax standards of cleanliness, that’s bad.
And last night I received the least favourite of night time visits – ‘Mum, I’ve peed the bed again.’
Stripping and griping, I wondered if I could squeeze out some positivity, along with the pee, from these experiences. Of course I can. Some people don’t get to have any children, and others don’t get to snuggle them into their own beds every night.
Today I have been thinking about…skiving
A Scottish word, this, skiving is slacking off when you should be working. As a Scot, but also of Eastern European heritage, I pride myself on a double cultural work ethic. Normally when I feel guilty about skiving it’s because I’ve only written a thousand words and redrafted a chapter and a blog post.
But yesterday for some reason I couldn’t get down to it. Hours were frittered away on social media, which is meant to be only one part of my work. I was skiving and I knew it.
Then something else happened. The house, which has been going into a steep cleanliness decline since I got a contract, became of interest. I wanted, needed to clean it.
The door was shut tight, but the window was banging on the outside wall.
At the top of my list of eternal hope is a tidy house. I’m not a naturally tidy person, so as a practical hope it is fairly pointless, but interesting as a symbolic one.
Sometimes, I read that hope as symbolic of the failures of a working mother: the inability to lay hands on the most recent bank statement or the vital leotard is proof that I am missing my maternal (and uxorious) Key Performance Indicators. This makes me cross.
At other points, domestic untidiness seems to mirror the complexities of work and the multiplicity of these current academic KPIs, many of which seem out of my reach. That makes me melancholy. Both make me mutinous.
What to do? Reject the completely-internalised cultural hegemonies of domestic space and professional achievement? It would probably be easier to just tidy the house.