Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: On being a slut; or, not scrubbing doorsteps (2)

Friday, April 01, 2005

On being a slut; or, not scrubbing doorsteps (2)

It's been good here the last few days. The true Calima never materialised, the wind went round to the west, turned gentler and cooler; the sun has been out almost all the time. Summer is here for the moment; with any luck will stay here during Beloved Daughter's visit; she's due on Sunday. Good.

Downside - there always a downside - is that the flies are back. And that the drudge of watering the garden is about to restart. Granny watered her citrus trees last night - still not well-established they were beginning to look sorry for themselves - but are beginning to produce flowers. Lemons this year? With luck, provided the wind doesn't blow them (flowers or small fruit) off at sensitive stage. This happened last year. Really they need more protection - successful citrus trees here either have walls all round or are grown right down in dips. But we do are best,

Granny also planted 3 cabbages; though she appreciates what Montaigne says - that in the middle of planting cabbages would be a good way to die - she's happy to say she survived the exercise. They will need watering tonight too.

Gentle domesticity; something she appreciates more than she did when young. Hard probably to imagine now how little other than domesticity was imagined for females like her then,in her youth. 'When you are grown up and married and have children of your own' - was the only suggestion for a future ever made by either of her parents. (The unwished for alternative of course was to be a splendid - and viriginal - spinster keeping the WI going; all all that. Our parents did not wish that for us; as for life as a far from virginal not to say happy spinster, playing the field. OH NO NO NO.)

In retrospect this belief in Granny's domestic future was particularly strange coming from Granny's mother who had domesticity thrust upon her by the war, LOATHED it, and also understood better than most that granny was a loner, not so easily caged. Presumably being a bit like that and having survived she imagined Granny could too; the answer is granny didn't, well not entirely; at any rate only after making a bargain with herself that domestic minimalism - ie virtual slutdom - was the way to retain something of herself. Oh and by writing, which was luck. (If she'd needed to work outside of the house it would have been harder. All the Oxford Careers Office could say to females approaching graduation was: well Miss X - how about taking a secretarial course? Or - 'you might make a good teacher.' Meanwhile inundating males with invitations to make their fortunes in Unilever, or Shell or Cadbury's. Well actually, thanks no too, but at least they were ASKED.)

So; if the floor needed scrubbing, windows washing, her knickers needed washing and she had a chapter to write; guess which won?

Children of course, could not be so neglected - there was a period in Granny's life with two children under two and a half when she seriously thought her life was over. THIS WAS WHAT IT WAS ALL ABOUT. You procreated and then you died; just like mayflies. Which didn't mean to say she didn't love her children; she adored them. But that's not quite the point. One sad friend alas took the feeling all too literally - when her youngest child was eight she decided her children didn't need her any more and hung herself. This is a story that haunts Granny forever; not least because of her own battles with depression around the same issues. But she survived. By being a slut, up to a point and no further (she can't quite bear a dirty stove; she scrubs it.) All around her had she but known it were other females, working or non-working, with children and without who did the same -we started younger then, had fewer support networks, only discovered the others by accident. All this despite the residual guilt when we picked up our children's reading-books - there was Mum in frilly apron, polishing things. Not to mention all the ads, all the articles in women's magazines telling us how to polish our skirting-boards, put on our makeup for hubby, paint our nails, keep our stockings from wrinkling; so on and so forth. The collective letting out of breath when Katherine Whitehorn wrote her pieces from all the large numbers of middleclass Observer readers could have a blown a bus down the M4. (Had it existed then; it didn't.) Oh the relief. THE RELIEF. Never did a Stanley feel more grateful for his Livingstone than we were for this. Not hundred, not thousands, millions of them.

Why was Katherine Whitehorn not made a dame?

Granny is left with a few residual guilts; out of sheer shame she cleans up for the cleaner always. 'What an earth for?' asks Beloved. 'Because I want her to do real cleaning not clear up after me,' says Granny. Which is partly true; but it is also because still, though a slut at heart, she is not entirely happy to be seen as one. This is one legacy her mother left her. Even if she has never felt obliged like her mother to scrub her doorstep. A dirty doorstep? Who cares about a dirty doorstep? Imagine it!

10 Old comments:

Anonymous caroline said...

The truly wonderful Ms Whitehorn wasn't made a dame because the men were scared of her...

I enjoy your musings very much - where can I read your work?

I am glad that your black dog is back in it's basket - mine too. It's nice when they do that.

I was thinking about that Eliot quote, it reminded me of Iris Murdoch saying she was 'sailing into darkness', one of the saddest things I've heard.

I'm going to be pretty peed off if I keel over while planting cabbages...

PS I am a slut too, but I have cleaned off the cat vomit now.

10:00 pm  
Anonymous caroline said...

PS (rare practical moment) We have a ntural spray here for flies - I live in the country and there's loads of them, I feel like Desperate Dan some days. You can get an automatic dipenser that shoots the stuff out every few minutes. No more flies.

7:03 am  
Blogger anan said...

thanks so much for the link to Ms. Whitehorn's writings. I don't feel so bad about the ankle-deep pile of mending lying on the floor now.

11:32 am  
Blogger Mark Gamon said...

Curiously, I did scrub the doorstep the other day. Or rather, being thoroughly hi-tech and a bloke to boot, I jet-sprayed it clean within an inch of its concrete not-a-life.

Somewhere deep down in my genes, the Northern shopkeeper branch of my family stirred and I was left feeling unaccountably virtuous. Go figure.

1:18 pm  
Blogger Deirdre said...

Good on you for surviving, that's all I can say. There's still so much pressure on parents, but now there are more options, too.

I wouldn't say I'm a slut (not in Australia, anyway...) but I'm really damn good at not doing housework. And the funny thing is, all it takes is practice: the more non-effort I make, the easier it gets!
:)

Hope Beloved Daughter's visit is lovely.

6:39 pm  
Blogger granny p said...

Thanks everyone. Anan if you've actually intending to do the mending you are not a slut! I was taught to darn socks - do I do it now? No! I just chuck them. Actually I do believe that mending stuff not just heading out to buy new is much more ethical -problem is finding time to act on it. (Sort my conscience mainly by continuing to wear socks with holes in them.

Caroline I'm sure you're right about KW's damelessness. And can you tell me name of non-harmful flystuff and automatic dispenser - maybe I can get something like it via the net!

As for Mark's cleaning his doorstep - with or without technical assistance - I'm speechless.
Keep on practising non-housework Deirdre...

1:06 pm  
Anonymous caroline said...

I really wish I hadn't done this..

http://www.bayeranimal.com/pdf/msds/hygiene/Robocan%20insecticide%2049135.pdf

OK, that's one of them,can't find the other but will let you know. This particular one makes SUCH a loud noise that I can hear it from one end of the house to the other.

Must go - might have frostbite.

12:36 pm  
Blogger granny p said...

Caroline, thanks so much. Alas the magic robocan doesn't seem on sale in Europe - or anywhere except NZ and Oz where I know by experience the flies are AWFUL.

Sorry if it was a pain to do - at least I know what I'm looking for; maybe can set my Aussie sister to work!

(Hope you didn't get frostbite...we're cooking here)

2:04 pm  
Anonymous morphess said...

Right. I may have good news.
The other one is this;
http://www.airguard.co.nz/

The outer case is actually made in Canada. If you go on that site you can e mail them for international enquiries. I suspect you might have to order 8,000 of them, but you never know. Hang on, you could suppliment your income by importing it!
This stuff really is natural and won't give you frostbite...

10:17 pm  
Blogger granny p said...

Thanks Caroline - will try this - I'd just LOVE 8000 of the things...

12:08 pm  

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