Because I’m a super-special pampered princess with too-tight diamond slippers and my own personal unicorn, I have a cleaner (full disclosure: I got my unicorn second-hand on eBay. In fact, I saved my unicorn from the knackers yard. It’s a rescue unicorn).
I got a cleaner last year when I started renting out my spare room again after a year’s break, because I was sick of spending Saturday mornings literally cleaning up other people’s shit (from the inside of the toilet, not the floor. I’m not renting out a stable).
I felt quite guilty and reluctant about it at first. Not too bad, just standard, middle class I Have A Cleaner Guilt that everyone gets, and that I probably only felt to make myself feel better about having a cleaner in the first place.
Clearly I can’t even invest in feeling guilty with any level of enthusiasm.
To add to my half-assed bad feeling, I found my cleaner through a personal recommendation, and paid her cash in hand, rather than pay an extra agency fee to ensure she got holiday and sick pay. Hope you’re sharpening those pitchforks.
Anyway, any feeling of iffyness (is that a word?) on my part quickly diminished when I came home from work to a miraculously tidy house, that smelt a bit like Pledge and bleach.
And you know what? I bloody loved it. I loved that I Have a Cleaner, Ergo I Am An Adult feeling. I loved discussing my cleaner with all my other friends who have cleaners (cleaner etiquette, cleaner wages, acceptable cleaner Christmas presents).
I loved leaving her little notes asking her to clean out the cupboards or the fridge this week (although my notes were sometimes misinterpreted):
I mainly just loved not having to do any freaking cleaning.
I also started to feel a bit like a benevolent direct employer of the less fortunate. A Lord Grantham character, if you will.
Thinking about it now, allowing the cleaner/client relationship to drift into Downton Abbey territory IN MY HEAD, was possibly a mistake.
Inevitably, after a couple of months the relationship started to sour. My lovely cleaner went from being pretty good and efficient to being really shit, unreliable and, possibly trying to kill me*.
Not only was she virtually AWOL, but when she did turn up, she rarely stuck around for the two hours I’d pay her for, and other than a rudimentary tidy-up, did very little actual cleaning.
The obvious solution would have been to confront her straight away, find out if there was a particular problem and then resolve it. But I didn’t do this. Partially because I hate conflict and partially because all that Middle Class Guilt I’d been merrily ignoring actually kicked in for real.
Even though I loved having a cleaner, I only loved it when everyone was happy. I certainly didn’t want to have to give her a bollocking (even a gentle one, in pidgin English, via text).
And because I couldn’t kick her ass for not doing the job I was paying her for, I lacked authority.
I’d be a terrible Lord Grantham. Under my watch the servants would have taken over the house Animal Farm-style halfway through the first season of Downton Abbey and that would have been the end of that.
It’s possible she sensed that I was on the back foot:
Then she tried to kill me**, and I knew things couldn’t go on. Plus she was so terrible that my tenant was threatening to withhold her rent until we got a proper cleaner who actually cleaned stuff.
So under extreme duress, I manned up, faced my fears, and erm... sent her a text message and then switched off my phone. Like a hero.
I had fired someone I was paying cash in hand to do menial work that I could easily have done myself if I’d chosen to. I am the scum of the middle class, liberal, Guardian-reading, olive oil-swilling Earth.
So, what did I learn from this experience? As usual, very little. Except that pretending you’re Lord Grantham in your head is unwise in almost every situation. I also realised in hindsight that sarcasm and just ‘being a bit short’ in text messages doesn’t always come across when you’re speaking to someone who doesn’t speak English as their first language.
Because I’m a brave little soldier, my brush with death didn’t put me off getting a cleaner again. I now have a fantastic woman who always turns up when she says she’s going to, and does an amazing job.
However, I bought her a present on my last holiday for no apparent reason, and pay her £2 an hour over the going rate, just to ensure that she doesn’t start dropping rat poison in my muesli.***
I’m no Lord Grantham, I’m a simpering, middle-class apologist, and you know what? That’s ok.
*She put bleach in a water bottle next to my bed and left it there. I tried to drink the water bottle of bleach in the middle of the night. It could have been an honest mistake. It could have been attempted homicide. We’ll never know.
**Again, possibly not murder, just really sloppy waste disposal.
*** Not really, I would NEVER eat muesli.