Posted in Personal life

Springing into Action

(First published in the Tetbury Advertiser’s May issue)

Dusters on a shelf with hazard sign
Who knew dusting could be this dangerous?

The unseasonably warm weather after Easter makes me buck up my ideas about housework, a topic  never front-of-mind for me. With spring sunshine streaming through smudgy windows, I can no longer pretend that it’s fairy-dust adorning the piano.

I brace myself to brandish a duster and head for the under-sink cupboard. First task: awaken the cleaning materials from hibernation. Second task: dust the can of polish.

In search of a duster, I move aside a dozen blue, green and yellow bottles, mostly unopened since I bought them in an optimistic extension of the “new broom sweeps clean” theory. I’ve since decided that only applies to brooms, because brooms can be used straight after purchase without any more ado, unlike these fancy products, which require you to read small-print instructions and find accessories – cloths, sponges, buckets, or squeegees.

Some of the products I don’t even recognise. Unable to remember buying them, I half-expect their price labels to be in shillings and pence. What a good thing they don’t bear a use-by date.

In the absence of spring sunshine, the second best trigger for housework is to schedule a party, because my loathing of housework is exceeded by my fear of being branded a slob. Fear of a visitor’s judgemental finger running through the dust on top of the piano spurs me into cleaning mode, but family fingers are less effective. The “Clean Me” message that my daughter wrote in the dust on my husband’s laptop has lain undisturbed for several days.

How to Get Things Done

This notion that the best way to get something done is to do something else is what I call “Janet’s Principle”, named after my sister-in-law, who once declared, just before serving us home-made apple pie, that “The best way to clean your nails is to make pastry”.

In other areas of my life, I prefer a more direct route to results. One of my favourite mantras is “The best way to get something done is to do it”. Or alternatively hire a cleaning lady.

Smiley faced Henry Hoover
I wish I enjoyed vacuuming as much as Henry does

That option wouldn’t have been open to the original working-class inhabitants of my Victorian cottage. Even so, they will have kept it much cleaner than I do, with little more than a broom, a rag, and some old-fashioned soapflakes. Our forefathers didn’t need gimmicky modern products, because they had two vital ingredients that I so clearly lack: enthusiasm and elbow grease. I wonder what reaction I’d get if I asked for those in Tesco?

If you liked this month’s column, you’ll enjoy “Clean Linen”, one of 22 very short stories in my latest paperback, Quick Change, which may be ordered from The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop and other good booksellers for just £5.99. It’s also available as an ebook from the usual suspects. To be among the first to hear about my new books and events, sign up to my mailing list.


English author of warm, witty cosy mystery novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries and the Gemma Lamb/St Bride's School series. Novels published by Boldwood Books, all other books by Hawkesbury Press. Represented by Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agents. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. Course tutor for Jericho Writers. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors. Lives and writes in her Victorian cottage in the heart of the beautiful Cotswold countryside.

2 thoughts on “Springing into Action

  1. Great fun! I am the descendent of a housekeeper and a lady’s maid, among other ancestors … this inhibits writerly eye-closing regarding basic housekeeping probably to my cost! (Oh, as does having a lodger: I feel his mother’s eyes looking at my carpets!)

    1. That reminds me of my dad’s theory that DIY skills skip generations – too easy to get your dad to fix something rather than learn how to do it yourself! He’s a brilliant handyman, but his father and my brother are rubbish at it. I’ve taken the pressure off demands for his skills by marrying a good handyman myself!

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