Fiona Ness: 'Dear cleaner, it's not me, it's you...'
Dear cleaner, it's not me, it's you...
Get a cleaner, they said. A cleaner is what you need to transform your life. Weighed down with pregnancy? Get a cleaner. Feeling the baby blues? Get a cleaner. Fighting with your husband? Get a cleaner. Cracking up as a working mum? You need a cleaner.
So I got a cleaner, and this is what happened: sign-up to the service was easy. Break-up, not so much. My cleaner smiled as I talked her through the tasks. Then she pointed to her phone and motioned for me to tap it all into Google Translate. "Too slow," my husband said. We didn't have her back. But the website persisted. What exactly had been wrong, why wouldn't I give them another go?
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Hello cleaner #2. I wanted her to clean like her (hypothetical) newborn could wake up at any minute. I came home to a three-day-old chewed-up carrot spatter pattern on the living room window.
The third cleaner was perfect, but she dumped us for another job. The fourth cleaner didn't turn up at all.
And each time - the questions: why, why, why? In the time I'd wasted on my cleaning correspondence, I could have doused the house three times over and saved €120 in the process.
The answer to my dilemma? It is as every woman secretly knows: if you want a job done right, you really should just do it yourself.
Heroism and tragedy in two grandpas' tales
How did the ordinary Germans commemorate D-Day? "They didn't," comes the answer from my cousin in Germany.
My cousin lives across the lake from the Nazi Congress Hall in Nuremberg, which was bombed by our paternal grandfather during WWII. His aircraft logbook is in my father's possession, along with a book from his time in Stalag Luft III. It irritated him when toffie officers tried to escape; the Germans stopped everyone's cigarettes.
When my cousin cycles around the lake, she thinks of two things. She thinks of the 24-year-old warrant officer from the Lanarkshire steelworks, applying the trigonometry he learnt before leaving school at 14 to night navigation using stars and time/speed/distance over 1,000 miles.
The neat, dark, handsome man from our granny's mantelpiece, flying in tight formation with unstable, heavily laden aircraft in sub-zero temperatures, while Germans were trying to kill him from the ground and air, then dealing with the incredible responsibility of lighting up a target for his slow-moving, heavy bomber peers.
This man of deep and quiet Catholic faith repeatedly dropping a mass of explosives on a civilian population. And then being shot up and parachuting out. The shock of capture. The prisoner of war years precipitated his early death in 1958. We would never know him, but we know the enormity of his legacy.
She thinks also about her children's paternal grandfather. They call him 'Opa'. His family were pulled off a train travelling to Germany after the collapse of the Reich and had to remain in an area that then became Czech.
They had to wear white armbands which identified them as Germans, and were spat at and beaten. Opa left Czechoslovakia aged 19 to visit family in Germany and watched on the news as Russian tanks drove in to occupy his home. He never returned and was deemed a traitor.
During my cousin's recent citizenship exams, she learnt how up to two million Germans died as a result of the country's borders being redefined after WWII. Most starved to death.
On yesterday's 75th anniversary of D-Day, amid the salutes and the circumstance and the playing of 'Highland Laddie' (lest we forget), it was worth taking pause. Every story contains multitudes, even if it's remembered only in black and white.