Bill Ralston: A clean sweep

by gabeatkinson / 31 January, 2013
Holidays can sometimes have unexpected consequences.
"That may be true, but it’s definitely the best place in the world to perpetuate the myth that it’s still the best place in the world to bring up children.” /cartoon by Steve Bolton


Usually the toughest part of returning from a long summer holiday is settling back into the mundane routine of work and the familiar pattern of life at home. However, this year is different. I arrived back from weeks at the beach to find my house had crossed into a parallel universe; it was the same but different in myriad small but confusing ways.

We had passed the care of our home to friends. It was a perfect solution: they needed a place to stay in Auckland and we needed the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re unlikely to be burgled and that the house will be well cared for.

Domestic security was certainly guaranteed. He was an ex-SAS soldier who had worked with Blackwater in Iraq. I warned them that on Fridays, women would arrive to clean the house. I thought it best to do so in case he mistook them for burglars and began waterboarding them in the laundry.

We arrived home to be met at the door with the welcoming words, “Hi. I fired your cleaners.”

She produced her iPad. “I’ll show you why.” She had toured the house, photographing a series of hygiene atrocities that included a dead mouse entombed in a pile of dust and lint under the fridge and a thick layer of grease on every surface more than 1.5m off the floor. That last sin against cleanliness was understandable, as the cleaners were each barely 1.2m tall. Greasy tidemarks are apparently a common failing among midget cleaning ladies.

She had performed her military-grade health and safety inspection within the first 12 hours of being on-site and had disposed of the cleaning ladies within 24 hours. She also announced that from now on she would come every Friday and clean for two hours.

I looked around. Every surface was gleaming. I realised the fridge was, in fact, made of shiny steel and not dull pewter. The kitchen floor tiles were not grey but cream. Most surprising of all, the house seemed bigger. This was because five years of accumulated clutter had been removed to storage somewhere else in the house.

It seemed a perfect outcome. Only later did I begin to notice what felt like a tear in the fabric of space and time. At the anointed hour when it was time for a quiet drink, I opened the cupboard to retrieve a glass. There were none there; instead, it was piled high with plates. On the shelf where the plates had been were stacks of serving platters. In the drawer where the pots were kept, there were rolls of foil and plastic wrap. The room began to spin. Nothing was where it should be.

Checking the pantry, I noticed all the cans stood in orderly ranks, the condiments on another shelf lined up with labels facing out, with several packets of food carefully arrayed above. There appeared to be the same amount of stuff, but there was much more space and you could see what you were looking for when you opened the door.

She had rearranged everything in the house quite logically. That was the problem. We had allowed anarchy to prevail. Things had ended up in places simply because that is where we had first put them when we had moved in. Over an extended period, other objects found places to reside, like debris washing up on a beach.

Now, everything is clean, tidy and logically arranged. I, of course, can find nothing. It’s as if I’ve entered a state of dementia, wandering about muttering, “Where’s the can opener? What happened to the TV remote? Anyone seen the cups?”

It will take weeks before I can satisfactorily mess everything up again.
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

Artist Judy Millar creates a show-stopper at Auckland Art Gallery
77134 2017-07-28 08:53:07Z Arts

Artist Judy Millar creates a show-stopper at Auckl…

by India Hendrikse

A brand-new, puzzle-like artwork by Judy Millar at Auckland Art Gallery exuberantly fills a tough space.

Read more
Cat control and 'barking consultants': Is the council coming after your pet?
76916 2017-07-28 00:00:00Z Politics

Cat control and 'barking consultants': Is the coun…

by Bill Ralston

Councils must be barking mad to be considering spending millions more controlling cats and silencing dogs.

Read more
Filmmaker Raoul Peck: Karl Marx, James Baldwin and me
76930 2017-07-28 00:00:00Z Movies

Filmmaker Raoul Peck: Karl Marx, James Baldwin and…

by Helen Barlow

A film-maker focuses on two thinkers who questioned the social order of their day.

Read more
PayWave's great, but we're light years behind China's payment methods
76945 2017-07-28 00:00:00Z Technology

PayWave's great, but we're light years behind Chin…

by Sophie Boot

New Zealand is in the dark ages compared with China’s electronic payment methods and we need to upgrade if we want more of that country’s business.

Read more
Ain’t No Taco: Symonds Street gets a new taqueria with a twist
77130 2017-07-27 14:58:01Z Auckland Eats

Ain’t No Taco: Symonds Street gets a new taqueria …

by Kate Richards

Peter Barton, co-owner of Burger Geek, opens a taqueria a few doors down the road

Read more
Synthetic cannabis: The killer high
77113 2017-07-27 11:56:15Z Social issues

Synthetic cannabis: The killer high

by Susan Strongman

There have been eight deaths related to synthetic cannabis in just over a month. People know it's killing them. So why are they smoking it?

Read more
Winston Peters criticises use of te reo in Parliament
77102 2017-07-27 10:34:33Z Politics

Winston Peters criticises use of te reo in Parliam…

by RNZ

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has criticised Te Ururoa Flavell for using te reo Māori in Parliament during question time.

Read more
NZ has done 'horrific job' protecting most vulnerable - commissioner
77095 2017-07-27 10:06:22Z Social issues

NZ has done 'horrific job' protecting most vulnera…

by Emile Donovan

Abuse of intellectually disabled people in state care over five decades has been brought to light in a new report by the Human Rights Commission.

Read more