Bairbre Power: 'After I booked the cleaner I did a really Irish thing - I started cleaning the house'
Isn't that bright, awakening sunshine just wonderful? It blasts through the fuzzy February cobwebs and shouts that spring has arrived. The only downside to all this brightness is it shows how dirty my windows have become. Battered by winter rain and sleet, they deserve a little spa day with a soapy wash-down followed by some energetic buffing with lots of elbow grease and some dry newspaper. The question is: who is going to do it?
There was a time when I would have jumped at the opportunity to give the windows a good clean, dragging out my ladder, but now I know better. I know that if I attempt half a day doing circular swooshes like Sonny Knowles, (Lord rest his soul) I'd be rightly banjaxed and have to retreat to an epsom salts bath and some Voltarol. All of this is why I'm taking the less physical but, regrettably, more expensive approach and booking in a cleaner.
I have to confess that I'm a newbie to the 'why don't you just get a cleaner' phenomenon. Fact is, for years I couldn't justify having one as there were too many other expenses with a growing family, and sure wasn't I fit and healthy and well able to do it myself? I was a demon for the big bottle of bleach and a shiny sink was the ultimate reward.
Who would have thought that surveying gleaming work surfaces over a cup of tea could be so pleasurable?
I love attacking the tiles in the bathroom. Afterwards, your index finger has burn marks from getting right into the grouting, but it's so worth it, I almost want to sleep in there.
I'm not alone on this. Just look at the phenomenal online success of Essex housewife Mrs Hinch, who has almost two million followers on Instagram and refers to all her cleaning clothes by their Christian names? I'm now a devotee to pouring Zoflora disinfectant everywhere, but I won't be following her example and cleaning painted doors with fabric conditioner. Yikes!
No, I'll stick to my approach and work from the top down - which means I start with the bathroom and end up in the kitchen. This room is a great source of pride, but don't you just resent how, only a few hours later, there's dirty plates and more pots and pans to be cleaned? It's hard not to wonder why you ever bothered to clean it in the first place.
Maybe my friend in America has the right idea after all. She greets house guests with paper plates and plastic cutlery even though she has the best of everything in those gleaming glass cabinets.
When it comes to cleaning the house, some jobs make me happier than others. Am I weird because I like hoovering and ironing?
When I told friends excitedly that I was going home early because I had a cleaner coming in the next day at dawn, they were shocked it was not a regular occurrence. "I couldn't survive without my cleaner; I love her almost as much as I do my husband. She keeps my house, and my life, on track," I was told.
Another pal said she would swap her two-week summer holiday in order to keep her cleaner who comes in every two weeks. I'm shocked at stories of people standing over their cleaners and doing the swooping finger dust test. Before the cleaner arrived, I did what I suspect lots of Irish people do - I started to clean the house. After a few hours of Marie Kondo-ing the house into submission, I gave up and just started ramming things into cupboards that I hoped the cleaner wouldn't open.
Now that I have discovered how wonderful she is, I want her back to zap my windows. My house looks a million times nicer already.
My late mum had a weekly cleaner called Annie, and Annie's cleaning modus operandi had a military thread: she would start with "the saluting base" and head out to the front door with her striped tin of Brasso to polish the knocker and letterbox before waxing the green and white checkerboard tiles, while mum put on the kettle for them both.
All in all, I suspect cleaning is a very efficient form of therapy (I've heard quite a few people say they clean when they are angry or in a bad mood).
Beats hitting the gin.