How do men and women live together for any length of time without going completely doolally? ‘A fair question and one that in recent weeks ‘as been much on my mind.’ It’s quite true what they say; it’s the little things that drive one over the edge. I’ve always thought it a sensible solution to have spouses living in separate homes. And for awhile, I managed to get my way. However, Peter joined me here nearly a year ago and now there’s nowhere else to go! The problem, I think, is that Peter has semi-retired and I haven’t. His work keeps him occupied for about 6 days a month and for the rest of the time, he is free to watch sport on telly and read murder mysteries to his heart’s content. I, on the other hand, have not had the luxury of retiring from my housekeeping duties.
When I was a stay-at-home mother and Peter went out to work (this being a mutually agreed upon decision for the benefit of the family), I was quite happy to shop, cook, take care of the children’s needs, be the family social secretary, manage the home finances and keep house (with the help of a full time maid). However, since the children left home I feel that the day-to-day stuff of running a house should be shared. And mostly it is, except for tidying up.
As Eleanor Roosevelt commented:
There are practical little things in housekeeping which no man really understands.
And there’s the rub.
We have a stack of plastic drawers and two bins in the garage, dedicated to recycling. Bottles, cans, milk cartons and polystyrene trays go in the bins and paper, cardboard and plastic go in the drawers – a simple system one would think. However, for some reason it has become my job not only to keep the house tidy but also to sort all the rubbish for recycling. Peter knows what we recycle because he takes it to the recycling centre but it appears that he doesn’t know how to sort it for storage, or perhaps he just doesn’t see it: the pile of old newspapers on the coffee table, empty milk cartons in the sink, and my worst, used toilet roll holders on the bathroom window sill. A young lad (a friend of the family) once apologised to me when I asked him to get me something out of the fridge and he couldn’t find it even though it was staring him right in the face: “Cathy”, he said, “the trouble with men is that they look but they just don’t see.”
The straw that broke the camel’s back happened about a week ago, when Peter returned from Pietermaritzburg and deposited a box containing a gas heater, which was just too big not to notice, at the foot of our bed, rather like a cat dumping a dead rat at one’s feet and waiting for praise. The box sat there for several days while I stubbornly ignored it. Finally, I bought a gas cylinder and asked Peter to connect it. He removed the heater from the box and I had to ask him to take the heater to the veranda where we intend using it. The empty box was left behind with all the bits of polystyrene packaging and the plastic cable that had been cut from the box and left lying on the floor. A few days later I noticed that the box and cable had also been moved to the veranda, not the garage as one might have expected. Our maid (part time) came to work and in order to clean the veranda floor she lifted the box onto the table. I had resolved to ignore the box for as long as it took but I couldn’t keep it in any longer. That evening I asked, as politely as I could muster: “what the fuck is that empty box doing on the veranda table?” The response I got was: “what’s stopping you from putting it in the garage?” That precipitated a rather long rant from me on slovenliness, servant complexes, pigsties and the like. Since then things have improved slightly but I’m not holding my breath. After all, the polystyrene packaging is still in the bedroom.
On a positive note, he is quite good at getting snakes out of vacuum cleaners. We’ve had three red-lipped heralds trying to move indoors with us. Thandi (our maid) discovered the first one when she lifted the rug under the dining room table as she was mopping the floor. I heard a blood curdling scream and Thandi came running out onto the veranda shouting “inyoka, inyoka”. The snake slithered out from under the rug and disappeared behind a dresser. Thandi and I were standing outside when I saw Peter appear with Alex’s cricket bat; I screamed “don’t kill it” and Thandi started shouting “kill it, kill it”! Fortunately Kho arrived to help and between Peter and him they managed to return it unharmed to the bush. The second one got as far as the veranda and slithered off into the garden on its own accord when we discovered it. The next one was not so lucky. Again, poor unfortunate Thandi was vacuuming and again I heard a god-almighty scream and the vacuum cleaner went flying across the room. Thandi had inadvertently sucked a snake, which had been under the sofa, into the vacuum cleaner and it was coiled around the roller. This time Peter had to coax it out very gently, and although it was injured, it managed to uncoil itself. Peter gathered it up in the pool net and again returned it to the bush. I hope it survived the trauma, but I’m not so sure that our floors are going to be maintained to the same standard in future.