in tent city

‘But what happens if wild animals come and bite holes in the tent in the middle of the night?
And where will I plug in my DS?’

I don’t respond immediately, aghast at the wreckage of my once cosy bedroom. Our household has been gripped by cleaning lady holiday panic, which occurs every year when the migrating birds of North London decamp to Kosovo, Macedonia and Croatia for six or seven weeks.

My preferred solution is just not to clean my contact lenses either, until she comes back and makes everything all right again.

But Mr Fixit, whose attitude to cleanliness I sketched out previously, has been driven mad by it. My room is a source of particular friction, as unlike the spartan Modernism of the rest of the house, it has a rug; thick, warm, and a magnet for dust, skin cells, cobwebs and other foreign elements, especially that large part of it under the enormous bed where the cleaner’s bad back prevents her from hoovering.

(By the way, to those of you whom the words ‘cleaning lady’ drive into an apoplexy of class hatred, I ask only: Did Martin Luther King do his own vacuuming? Did Nelson Mandela wash his own socks, before he got to Robben Island? I thought not. I bet he handed the job over pretty soon after he got out, as well.)

Finally Mr Fixit, in desperation, dedicates his weekend to scouring and polishing the rest of the house, but stops short of cleaning my room. This is partly because of the rug, which has the temerity to be largely red a colour he can’t abide – (In fact, if I were the sort of person given to bad puns, I might say that a red rug to Patrick is like a red rag to a bull. Luckily, I’m not) – but also because it’s the refuge of many decades of sentimental attachment to my past.

Little boxes fashioned by tiny, inept hands, trapping dust between scraps of ribbon and tissue paper. Tiny tea sets rescued from the doll’s house, sticky photos, piles of junky jewellery, all lavishly arrayed on the curlicued French polish of my German grandmother’s furniture.

It’s like one of those museums where each room represents a different time and place; you open the door from the rest of the house, and it’s like stepping from the Dessau Bauhaus into Lily Langtry’s boudoir.

Stalled by these myriad obstacles to cleaning it himself, Mr Fixit has hit on the solution of ‘moving the rug, so it’s easier to get at’. This involves moving not just the rug, but everything else too, making it almost impossible to cross the room at all, and absolutely impossible to get at the bed. By this low but deadly strategy he hopes to ensure that I won’t be able to sleep until I’ve cleaned everything myself, and moved it all back.

So I’m standing in this bomb site, wondering whether just moving everything back again will displace enough dust to obviate the cleaning bit, when my children start going on about our  half term camping trip I was fairly amazed that Dolly was willing to give it a go, but totally stunned when her brother didn’t manacle himself to the game machine either.

Could it be the passing nod of Dame Fashion helping me along? I fear not. Hannah Montana has never, so far as I know, blown up a mattress or banged in a tent peg, nor are these common recreations amongst the muscled giants of the WWE Magnus’ current role models.

Whatever the reason, it’s a miracle I’ve got this far. And now they’re predicting thunderstorms. Other people’s children, the sort who dig latrines for fun and accept foraging for apples and blackberries as a legitimate morning’s recreation, would no doubt whoop with delight at the prospect of cosying up under canvas while the heavens crash overheard. Mine are terrified of thunder at the best of times, and will be straight onto Childline if it happens out of reach of our twelve inch concrete walls.

What I need is for Mr Fixit, whom they trust – most unfairly – far more than me, to come up with a demonstration of how a tent acts like a Faraday cage conducting the lightning down the poles into the ground, and then drive the argument home with something about rubber mattresses and giant Wellington boots.

Then I remember I’m not talking to him, because there’s a carpet on my bed. On the other hand, until I’ve cleaned it, and everything else, he’s probably not talking to me, and is certainly not about to help out in my propaganda war 

He’s done it again. Time to hunt down the highly-evolved German vacuum cleaner.