Housekeeper’s Diary


It has been raining. Endless deluges polka dotted by sudden, astonishing bright spells when I shove my feet into flip-flops and run out into the garden to see what delight and damage the rain has wreaked. And there they are: strawberries and so many tomato plants. Celery coming up a storm and cucumbers still a leafy mystery. A bed full of unidentified salad leaves apparently beloved of our resident wood-pigeons who cannot leave them alone, and the fuzzy heads of carrots something nibbles at night. All of it a wonder.

I am not the gardening sort but oh how I am loving bringing this garden to life: re-purposing the stones we found tucked down the side of the outhouse and poking the compost bin with a big stick. I like moving teenage seedlings into bigger pots and trusting them not to need tucking in at night and shooing the birds away from my beloved berries. I like pottering about pulling the head off this and watering that, brushing the paths at the end of the day and staring astonished at the grass Ste is bringing back to lovely life with meticulous attention.

I like it all. But let it be known, I do not like shrews. Shrews might be the tiniest, cutest, moley-smooth little blighters but a person who doesn’t like mice, or rats or anything else with a tail is almost certainly not a person who lifts up a pile of leaves and wants a diddy little shrew walking over her bare feet and trying to take shelter under the flappy legs of her trousers.

And there Ste and I differ. While I would happily trap him humanely (the shrew, not Ste) and carry him out to the fields behind the house, hoping that he hasn’t got pigeon style homing instincts, Ste informs me that shrews are protected species, utterly adorable and entirely welcome to use the hairs on his legs as ropes up a human mountain. Never mind that he might be one of an entire colony of shrews or have mousey friends, no never mind that, Ste is Doctor Doolittle don’t you know, and insists I am kind to everything from the ants that have set up city in the porch to the dove that keeps hopping in and out of the conservatory, as if he is a socially distancing member of the family.

So kind I am. If kind includes having the screaming ab-dabs whenever a wasp takes his chances in the living room and waking the whole house up if I hear the mere flap of a moths wings in the dead of night. And kind I will carrying on being as long as said shrew doesn’t decide to venture into the laundry room and burrow under my line-dried towels.

(Darn. I never said I was a nice person now did I?)

But yes. The garden is getting lovelier by the day. The birds my new best friends, and the house simply abundant with all the gifts being at home all day every day brings. The window-ledges flourishing with pink geraniums and homegrown herbs, cakes always in the greaseproof lined tin (strawberry muffins today) and the fridge respendent with glass tubs full of experimental creations as random as oat protein balls and beetroot pesto.

There is so much evidence of the real stuff of life: the broom leaning against the green door of the laundry room. A cane chair in the garden still wearing the blanket I tucked over my shoulders as I drank my morning coffee. A willow heart sitting on the bench my Mum painted. The solar fairy-lights that twinkle as soon as the sun goes down and a pile of lovely laundry in a cream basket at the bottom of the stairs, just waiting to be carried upstairs.

There are books on every surface. An abandoned yellow duster and tin of Method Almond polish (still one of my favourite smells in the world!) on the sideboard, a bowl of raspberry ruffles on the coffee table. Drumsticks and the damn drum-set cluttering up the office so lessons can be taken over Zoom and an alternative makeshift office set up in the conservatory where Ste sits as he attends meeting after virtual meeting.

So much life here now. No longer the static museum it always seemed to be when the house was empty but for me, nine till five daily.

A place alive now with my family. And other shrews.

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11/27/2020 09:30 am

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  1. Barbara Ann says:

    Your words speak what is in my heart. Aside from all the gnashing of teeth about how horrible these past months have been I admit that I have relished my “stay at home” time. My home is feeling the love. I am quite content to continue my home time as the world slowly starts to reopen.

    1. Alison Author says:

      I think so many of us feel the same… and there is some of me dreading reality encroaching on what I am coming to savour as one of the most peacefully odd times I have experienced at home.x

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