Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Can I do you now, sir?

I once saw a cartoon showing a woman in a shabby coat and carrying a shopping bag. She was standing on the doorstep of a very elegant house in some very posh part of London. Standing in the doorway was an elegantly dressed lady, looking down at the shabby creature on her doorstep. The caption was the question addressed by the one on the doorstep to the one in the doorway. It read: "Are you the woman who advertised for a cleaning lady?"

And now, I will relay to you something told to me by my cleaning lady, who is a sort of salt-of-the-earth mother. She worked nights in a nursing home for the very elderly. One night, as she was patrolling the corridors, one of the inmates, a frail old biddy in her nightdress, came up to her and asked, in a bewildered voice: "Am I dead?" Since then, I often wake up suddenly in the early hours with a similar question on my lips.

My previous cleaning lady was a bit, erm, flamboyant, god bless her. One day, she arrived in a splendidly decollete blouse, white embroidered with blue and red flowers. . I said admiringly: "That is a very pretty blouse," to which she replied: "If my husband heard you say that, he would kill you."

I have tried all my life to understand and value women, but when it comes to cleaning ladies, I am never quite sure what to expect.

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