The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Living like animals

Honey bee gathering nectar from a crocus

Honey bee gathering nectar from a crocus

During the last few years of my decorating days I worked a lot with a particular builder – let’s call him Reg. He didn’t choose me. Rather I was selected by his clients. I was employed by one and then her friend, and then her ex husband and so on. If you do a good job the local bongo drums of personal recommendation bang far more vociferously than an expensive marketing campaign.

I liked this builder and had a lot of respect for him. His team was good, the work was excellent and this made my life very easy. If you are matched with an untrustworthy builder the problems are endless. One day we may need to do building work here, Reg is on a short list of just three builders that I would trust with the job.

But there was a dark side to Reg. He could be moody. When he was in one of his moods he sucked the joy out of his team, who then worked beside him in heavy silence.

One day I decided to ask him what was wrong. The team watched goggle eyed as he drew a deep breath, leaned back against the kitchen counter and responded.
“I had to clean the toilet upstairs this morning. It was disgusting. I couldn’t use it in that state. It’s not my job to clean the toilet. When we left last night the toilet was clean. I’m a builder not a housemaid.”

If Reg could have seen some of the workmen’s loos that I’ve used as a decorator he would have only approached them in a gas mask and rubber gloves.

Reg sat down on an old beer crate and continued.
“I can’t believe the filth that people live in. Look at most people’s dishwashers. They’re not clean. When I open them to put my mug in, the seals are filthy, the filters are probably blocked. It’s just not hygienic. I’m being asked to drink out of a mug that has been washed in festering dirt.”

I was astonished. I’d always assumed that builders wouldn’t mind a bit of mess. I mentally traveled back to the dishwasher in my kitchen. Yes we do ‘clean’ the dishwasher with dishwasher cleaner every couple of months or so. I rinse out the filters every few days. But I’d never considered cleaning the seals.

Reg shifted on the beer crate.
“Some people bang on about builders mess. But they’re blind to their own filth, Fiona.”
He paused before making his final point.
“They are living like animals.”

I’m not tidy and hate cleaning. If Reg visited the cottage I’m pretty certain that we’d be added to his long list of ‘animals’. The phrase has become a standing joke in our house and is a benchmark that, when reached, indicates a deep spring clean is needed. Every time that I clean the loo and wipe the seals on the dishwasher, I think of Reg and his rage against filth.

And if he ever comes here to do some building work I will be stretched quite tight, maintaining the standards that Reg expects in a client’s home.


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11 Comments

  1. janerowena

    I have a father-in-law just like him. I have bought dishwasher cleaner especially for his visits, and always wipe the seals at the last minute before he arrives!

    I would love to know how people clean their loo brushes and holders. I was in dire disgrace after he discovered that about once a month I put my loo brushes and holders (ceramic) in the dishwasher, followed by my (few) indoor plant holders, followed by an empty cleaning wash. Apparently he he didn’t think the two washes following the ‘incidents’ were sufficient – I thought I was being extremely practical! So now it’s back to a long soak in bleach, but I don’t think it works as well as the dishwasher did.

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