Wednesday, 9 September 2009

A Hard Day's Write



That’s it! After two weeks of solid work on the Big Project it’s done, polished and sent off into the big wide world looking its very best. My thanks to Tom who, as ever, has kept me fed and watered whilst I’ve been leading my alternative life and put up with my primitive conversational skills whenever I’ve emerged sounding (and looking) like someone who’s been in the dark forest too long. It’s Tom, too, who’s done his Mr Red Pen bit – even when I get scrappy if he challenges a word – and picked up my clumsy mistakes. Best of all it’s Tom who swells my heart when he says nice things about the plot, because I know he’d tell me if he thought it stank. Ta, darlin’, my very own Critical Reader.

Having two weeks to write is a luxury I’m lucky to have at the moment, but I’ve spent years trying to juggle writing with all the other stuff. One of those ‘thrifty’ tips in the paper this weekend reminded me of when I tried to buy myself some writing time with some redundancy pay. It wasn’t exactly a huge sum so I decided to stretch it out, not by returning to another office, but by doing something that would leave me free to think about my work. I became a ‘Treasure’ by morning, doing rounds of housework for nice, middle class people on a nice estate of ‘executive’ homes, which left me afternoons to write.

Well, that was the plan. I hadn’t factored in how knackered I’d be. ‘Doing’ for one family in particular was like the labours of Hercules; every week I’d walk into food-encrusted surfaces as far as the eye could see, pebble-dashed loos, baths with grey, greasy tide-marks and floors totally obscured by discarded clothes and toys. Every week I’d leave it gleaming only to return to repeat the process again. The red mist finally descended when the lady of the house left me a little note asking me to ‘make sure to do the corners of the kitchen floor thoroughly’. I thought it was a bit much in a house where you could use a pig as an air freshener. Even now I get a bit hot thinking about it.

Then there were, oh let’s call them Margo and Jerry, a couple in their early seventies. It was them I thought of when I saw the thrifty tip as Margo, who was rather grand, had embraced the idea a long time ago - unhappily for me. Margo’s money-saver was to recycle Jerry’s baggy white underpants as cleaning cloths. If it wasn’t bad enough doing the dusting with my hand down someone’s old Y fronts, worse still was that their previous occupant loved following me round the house chatting to me. Ewwww!

Actually, Jerry was a dear, dear soul which brings me to the point of this post. Jerry, an engineer, had overseen some exciting projects in many exotic countries so decided to write his autobiography. Tiring of pen and paper he’d bought himself a whizzy new computer, but didn’t know how to use it so I ended up doing less cleaning and giving computer tuition instead. At the end of one morning, Jerry who was sitting with a cup of coffee, looked up and beamed at me. ‘Do you know, Chris,’ he said. ‘I’ve had a very happy, very fulfilling life. It wouldn’t matter if I died tomorrow.’ Two days later Margo phoned to say that Jerry had died in the night. I’m glad that Jerry died peacefully... but I’m still haunted by the thought of the notes of that unfinished autobiography sitting on his desk. Another reminder, I guess, to make the most of the time we have.

Cardiff Half Marathon Training
Runner’s World SmartCoach Programme Week 10 = 16 miles. One 7 mile session missed due to feeling unusually grotty.

Painting is 'Sunset - Bardsey' by Tom Tomos

30 comments:

Arosebyanyothername said...

I hope your labours have a successful outcome - you deserve them.
How brave of you to even consider cleaning someone else's house. I can hardly bear to clean my own.
Remind us when the Cardiff run is - I may be there in the crowd cheering you on.

Pipany said...

Oh Chris, I hadn't expected that. Poor chap and yet... Well done for the rewrite; just make sure we hear how it goes as soon as you know (like you don't have better things on your mind!). Best of luck xx

JJ Beattie said...

Fantastic news about the rewrite. And wow to the being the treasure, too. I am most impressed.

Angel Bluestocking said...

Well done on the re-write. I'll keep everything crossed for you and hope to hear from you soon.

Also good luck for the run - hubby is doing the 'Long Mynd Hike' - 50 miles in October - he'll be walking it. It must be completed within 24 hours. Some mad fools do run it!

xx

Cottage Garden said...

Good to have you back Chris. I hope the outcome of all your hard work comes good.

Such a poignant(but funny)story about 'Margot and Jerry' and his subsequent demise - poor man. What happened to his unfinished autobiography - was any of it ever published?

Jeanne x

ChrisH said...

Rosie, yes but you don't get paid to clean your own home! 18th October, Mags has got a place too so you'll get a double whammy!

Pip, yes, it was strange - he must have had a feeling about it. And thanks for the support - I'll let you know, don't worry!

JJ, I am vair pleased to finish (and not to be a treasure anymore!).

Angel, hello!, thank you for that. Good luck to Hubby - that sounds fiendish!

Hello Jeanne, I'll be over shortly. Nothing's come up when I 'Google' Jerry, but I'm not sure that poor Margo would have had the appetite to finish it.

Pondside said...

A pig as an air freshener! Can I use that in conversation - it's too good!
Anyone who's at all interesting has done some strange things - and you my dear, are very interesting. I love the thought of you buying writing time by cleaning houses - I once picked asparagus for a season. It nearly crippled me and left me with green hands, but I was so happy to have earned enough to be free!

Flowerpot said...

Having done the Treasure bit myself I know just what it's like! Great news on finishing The Project - and good luck with the Cardiff run.

elizabethm said...

This was so good that I did the classic annoying wife thing of insisting on reading it out! The pig as an air freshener will live with me for ever.
So glad you have done the rewrite with your usual focus and determination. If you could sell it you would be rich enough to have aeons of writing time!

Fennie said...

Gosh - re Jerry and the unexpected end. If you're facetious you'd say well that would have given one even more Y fronts to dust with. But that is some story - the unfinished tale of a life - the dark secret that wouldn't be told, that may lie even now secreted in some corner of a hard disk or day diary, hidden away. Exotic countries, meeting with Presidents and gunrunners, mafia types and tuxedos in the casino. Farewells on the runway, pistols in the cold grey dawn. Well, that's a whole new book for you. And then you could have the past catching up, the oriental gentleman knocking on the door, the day after the funeral, returning the voodoo doll or such like. Oh what fun you could have with that story. I'll remember to leave the microfilm in the corner of the kitchen floor.

bradan said...

Ha ha, love the bit about the pig as an air freshner! Oh no poor Jerry, but how brave to clean with your hand down his y-fronts!!
Very well done with the rewrite, fingers crossed!

snailbeachshepherdess said...

I absolutely howled at this - the pig as an air freshner and the y fronted dusters. So hope that the rewrite is IT - the vol au vonts have been in and out of the freezer so many times I think we will have to do some more - its the tinge of green on the prawns that is a bit disconcerting

LittleBrownDog said...

Fabulous blog, as ever, Chris. Yes - what is it about Y-fronts as dusters? I think it's probably something from our parents generation when they were trying to recycle everything as part of the War Effort. In fact my mum's probably still got a pair of Y-fronts / duster dating from that era. Well done with the Big Proj by the way. Fingers and toes all quadruple crossed for that.

xx

Edward said...

Good luck sending out the fruit of your labours.

Loved the story of you as a "char" - though I did go "ewww" at several points.

GNR training going well - did 6 x 3m 30s hills on Monday, 7 miles on Tuesday, 10 last night and am barely functioning today (though have a 6 miler planned). Running is supposed to be fun, isn't it?

Crystal Jigsaw said...

So now you deserve to sit back and relax. That was a great story and had me laughing out loud at the thought of you with your hand down the old gents Y fronts! Nicely told.

CJ xx

Pat Posner said...

Well done on the re-write, Chris,
and best of luck for the run

xxPat

lampworkbeader said...

Everything crossed here for your book. Good luck.

Debs said...

I know the 'joys' of cleaning other peoples homes - used to have a cleaning business and could tell many a story. Never had to clean with my hand down an old pair of Yfronts though.

Poor Jerry.

Debs said...

Shall cross everything for you big project.

Expat mum said...

Good luck with it. I was just mentioning at my place that as of Friday I am a free agent - no more little kids around the house during the day. I know I should be feeling some sense of loss, but oh - the thought of being able to write a paragraph or two in one go is too much!

sheepish said...

well done and good luck with novel and half marathon. Your descriptions of cleaning up after others had me in stitches.

Milla said...

you are so to be admired, CH. well done and God do I hope it all pays off. Talk about deserve it.

ChrisH said...

Pondside, I didn't coin the phrase, alas, but it's been in the family lexicon for yonks. I don't fancy the asparagus picking much either, but there we are - needs must! Yes, I am no stranger to strange things!

Fp, another of those links! Here's to Big Fat Publishing Deals to spare us the joys of being Treasures.

Elizabeth, thank you for all of that, dear heart.

Fennie, quick get to your keyboard and write that story!

Bradan, the y fronts were not fun, believe me. Thank you for the crossed fingers.

SBS, ah well, what's a few green prawns between friends... especially given the recent news about what they'd unwittingly served up at The Fat Duck!

LBD, I'm never going to be a Treasure for your mum then! Once was enough! And thank you.

Thanks Edward, and impressive stuff in respect of the GNR training, although I was quite relieved when you admitted to some fatigue!

Cj, hmm, I get a bit twitchy at the thought of relaxing... too busy worrying about shuffling off my mortal coil like Jerry. Thank you.

Pat, that's very kind of you.

Lampie, you too!

Debs, we must compare notes sometimes... like other people's 'secret', er, erotica collections! (No, not Margo and Jerry, bless 'em.)

Expatmum, I know the feeling - my poor girls have been so tolerant of me trying to squeeze in writing time along the way. Hopefully you'll be up and writing again now.

Sheepish - thanks for all!

Friko said...

Congratulations - you've done it. Now come the rejection slips and the endless re-re-writings....
Sorry, just kidding, you'll be famous in no time.

I love this post, there is so much humour and humanity in it, it could do as a short article for the literary section of a paper.

Isn't writing wonderful, I wish I could do it. All I can do is read, in spite of having sat for most of my life scribbling away, often at other people's texts as a translator.

Good Luck!

Friko said...

Congratulations - you've done it. Now come the rejection slips and the endless re-re-writings....
Sorry, just kidding, you'll be famous in no time.

I love this post, there is so much humour and humanity in it, it could do as a short article for the literary section of a paper.

Isn't writing wonderful, I wish I could do it. All I can do is read, in spite of having sat for most of my life scribbling away, often at other people's texts as a translator.

Good Luck!

gaelikaa said...

Congratulations Chris on your completed work and another great post too. God, but you do make me laugh!

Liane Spicer said...

Well done, Chris! Two weeks to focus on writing sounds like such bliss to me right now. Journey well, project!

(And I'm totally, totally jealous that you've got such a great Tom!)

ChrisH said...

Thanks Milla - I dread to think what the hourly rate for this will be if it ever sees the light of day - I think cleaning pays better.

Friko, thanks for your kind comments - I think you are selling yourself short from what I've read of your writing!

Gaelikaa, thank you -and thank you!

Thanks, Liane - I hope I realise how fortunate I am and yes, I recommend a Tom!!

Calico Kate said...

Lovely post - well done on getting 'the' project finished and all the very best of luck that it lands happily on someones appreciative desk. Do let us know how you get on.
The underpants - what a hoot!
CKx

Fia said...

Just read this and coughed coffee on my cardie:

'I thought it was a bit much in a house where you could use a pig as an air freshener.'

I've been trawling your recent posts looking for OU tips. We've just done our intros and we've got a good crowd. How about you?