My friend Wal is a decorator, a designer,
a go to man whether for a boiler or a brilliant. He has clients he tolerates (they pay) and one or two he is deeply fond of. He walks his dogs which means he may meet somebody: we are both open to the delight of the casual encounter – stories told, experiences clocked – and we tell each other about them. But this exchange has been reduced, while he and Howard, together for 25 years, haven’t been able to indulge in lunches out, shopping trips, or any of the “no we don’t need them but they’re nice” pleasures we are all missing. Several times recently Wal has said to me or I have to him in winding up a conversation “ Sorry, I am a very boring person.”
I am not bored as such if I have something to read
but much of what I read isn’t for him. And what most of us have learned, passing through the Covid tunnel if not before, is that there are small pleasures and unless you’re a dope, you grab them and recognise them for what they are. Like one day last week when it was cold.
I opened the door, sniffed and shut it again. Did I have supper? Yes. Did I have soup for lunch? Yes. Right. Not going out.
So I embarked on what Pam the Painter calls throwing the hoover round – heaven knows, it was time. And when I had done that to some sort of standard, I cleaned the kitchen stove with a product new to me, bought because it was reduced and not a Puritan special. Several times, I have bought things to clean the kitchen or the bathroom and the fumes have caught in my throat or made my eyes water. The Puritan thing is that dirt is the Devil and must be destroyed.
I am all for clean, I think it has underrated appeal, but I prefer to survive the grot intact and if I choke or my nose hurts, I can’t help but wonder how remnants of that substance will impact on food or my ageing skin in the shower, let alone the sensitive mucoid lining of my nose or lungs? I know the enemy is bad bacteria
but it isn’t all bacteria. And sprays are a two edged sword too.
So here am I facing the gas stove with a neat little package composed of a substance admixed with orange oil and an abrasive scrubber. Yes, it took slightly longer to use than some other products and a bit more in the way of wiping away, but it did the job well and it smelt agreeable. (Don’t think I was mucky about the bathroom – it was done the day before.)
And as I pause in the middle of the dusting I was probably doing in the wrong order, the letter box rattled and under a pile of coloured literature about mobility scooters and sheltered accommodation, there lay a parcel. I wasn’t expecting anything and my mother’s description of me lingers in my ears yet –“Hell to buy for !” But Perce didn’t think so. He had spotted this book, he thought I would like it and he sent it. The thought alone was enough to make me grin
like a fool.
So then I washed the kitchen floor – in Simone Signoret’s only novel, the concierge does this daily but I regret to tell you, I don’t. Though as everything dried into freshness, and the soup was warm I thought as I often do, that I’d rather my life than a lot of other people’s. And once I stretched out to read a bit of the gift book, I fell asleep.
I came to when the letter box rattled again, though I thought it couldn’t be post so I ignored it. And when I got up, it was an Amazon envelope containing another book, from a radio friend who thought I might like it – two books in one day ?
As evening came down, I stood in my small clean house, candles lit in every room, books in my hands – lucky, lucky, lucky.