I am about to show off and feel the need to warn you first. You see I am so stressed, the house is immaculate. Lickably, laughably clean. For when the going gets tough, I get the hoover out.
I do believe you see that the world is divided in to two types of people: those who create mess during stress and those who try to create order out of emotional chaos by going a bit bonkers with a squeegee. I am the latter. A lunatic with a damp-cloth permanently clutched between my worried fingers. A freak determined to control a life spinning out of control by standing on chairs to deal with errant corners.
Today I came home from the school run and suddenly appalled by the state of my skirting boards, dashed through the house to fetch a pail of warm water and a cloth with which to banish all evidence of my neglect. It was only when I found myself down on my hands and knees, coughing and spluttering with flu that will not fly away, worrying at a tiny mark that would not shift, did I notice I was still wearing my coat, a scarf and one finger-less glove.
Should you attend my premises and find it a little slovenly, then rest assured all is well. I will be busy looking after myself, reading, taking long baths, dashing hither and thither, enjoying the slings and arrows of motherhood and entrepreneurship and love and life and vintage housekeeping. But should you open the front door and sniff, basset hound style at air fragranced by tea tree, get ready to grab me by the apron strings, force me to sit down and take stock of my compulsion to clean anything standing still. Including the poor teenage child probably sprayed head to foot in deodorant and scrubbed at with the kind of tissue I have taken from my pocket, licked and applied to his face. Oh yes. Sometimes I am one of those Mums.
Stress comes in flutters. Sometimes in a sentence. Sometimes by the barrel load. Occasionally stress even comes dressed as a person.
Take Mark. The Father of my child. Now married to Hannah and father to another (adorable) child. Twice a week this relatively inoffensive man knocks on my door and I swear its as though someone pops batteries in me and winds me up. For in he comes and off I go. I run the tap for no good reason. Wipe down the stove. Get a dust pan and brush out. Swipe a duster over his bald spot. And he follows me around making small talk and telling me to step away from the sink and I chat away and fail to keep still and when things are really bad I start spritzing the greasy glass in the conservatory doors and he laughs and tells me I'm mental and then we have a cup of tea and all is well. But something inside me anticipates stress around him. So I clean. Which is really rather bizarre because I'm pretty sure my Dad would swear blind I never clean so relaxed I am in his chirpy company.
Today the house is spotless and Mark hasn't even been over! A sweet-smelling, cosy antidote to Storm Doris raging outside my front door and Storm Alison raging inside my head. Cleaning then is sometimes a means to an end. Sometimes a coping mechanism. Something to keep my hands busy and my mind deliciously empty.
It's when I start manically baking that you really need to worry...