While out walking with Mum and Little Dog, we moved off the path to make room for a mother and her two children. The boy rode past on a bike and the girl followed on her scooter. I observed the girl briefly as she tried to keep up with her brother. She steered the handles with one hand and balanced an ice cream in the other. We’d barely moved on when the girl started crying, frozen to the spot with her empty cone in hand, looking mournfully at the lump of ice cream on the footpath.
The mother told the child it would be okay. She picked up the ice cream, checked it for obvious grit and plonked it back on the cone.
Mum and I walked on but discussed this turn of events with fascination.
‘I don’t think, even I could do that.’ she said.
I reminded Mum that she had. When I was seven while sat at the table, Mum accidently dropped my dinner. I cried and Mum scooped it all back onto the plate and put it front of me.
‘But I vacuumed that floor – that was the footpath! And ice cream is wet!’
‘A pastie with veggies and gravy?’
‘Oh yeah. Gravy onto floor we walk on, wearing shoes we use on footpaths.’ she looked momentarily shocked, ‘It’s really no different, is it?’
We laughed. I hadn’t caught anything from my floor-meal and the young girl at the park was likely to survive her pavement-ice cream.
This led our discussion to cleanliness and the sense that there’s ‘clean’ dirt and dirty dirt. For instance, I’ve witnessed a baby drop its dummy (or pacifier, if you prefer) and a mother suck on it to ‘clean’ it before giving it back to her child.
At work the other day, after discussing what we needed for our communal kitchen, I suggested paper towel. ‘It’d be handy for if we spill something on the floor’
My colleague replied, “Oh? I just use the sponge.’
My brain then began itemising all the work-provided crockery I’d eaten off that I’d ostensibly washed with the floor. The growing number of shocked faces around us lead my colleague to defend her position, ‘But the dishwashing water cleans the cloth, doesn’t it?’ and later, ‘it’s okay really, isn’t it?’
Let’s not discuss what she did with the tea towel.
Mum has a friend who nearly vomits at the thought of a handbag placed on a table. ‘Handbags’ she says ‘have been on every floor, everywhere, including public toilets’. But then, she sleeps with her pets and, without thought, would eat food and lick her fingers after patting her dog. A friend of the family washes the windows of her house weekly, while her 1970s’ yellow food containers are so ingrained with four decades of cooking history, they’re brown.
This isn’t a judge-y blog post, I promise. I’m just illustrating how differently we all think about these things and, compared to the meticulousness of some friends, I’m a lazy cleaner. I only dust when it’s thick enough to write my name in it. I wash the kitchen floor sporadically, vacuum when it suits me (or I’ve made a dusty mess too significant to ignore) and leave the dishes a day and half too long before it hits my tolerance threshold and I wonder why I didn’t wash up sooner. I am lazy when it comes to household chores. But. But. I can’t stand stains in coffee cups, oily kitchen dust on food containers, rinsing dishes instead of washing them and the misuse of kitchen sink sponges.
We all have our limits.
And now we have paper towel in the kitchen at work.