Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Transparent Joy

Our house is high. Well, high for Leeds. Probably not high for the Himalayas or even for the Pennines. But we're up on a hill, and nearby is a steep wooded valley known - with slight exaggeration, I suspect, though I've never been to the original - as Little Switzerland. It's for this reason that, although I worry about many things, flooding is not one of them - by the time the flood got to us, the whole of Leeds would have to be underwater.

And our house itself is high. Steps at the front, steps at the back. So if you go outside and stand facing the house, you wouldn't be able to see in unless you were very, very tall.

All this is good from a not-being-burgled point of view. Our nearest brush with this came years ago, when we were sitting in one room downstairs on a summer's evening, when the windows were slightly open, and a burglar climbed into the other room. We heard the noise and went to look and he climbed straight out again but he'd clearly had a chance to see that there wasn't much worth nicking because he never came back. Mind you, we look very scary so I don't blame him.

Anyway, my point is this - - and I'm getting to it now - eventually! - - the windows are high.

To reach the bottom ones you need a stepladder. To reach the top ones you need a Saturn V Rocket. (I've seen one of those you know, at the Kennedy Space Center, when I was in America recently. Just mentioning it in passing.)

In the Olden Days when I was a child, we had an Irish window-cleaner. He came every few weeks for decades and decades. He was small, wiry, and came from the Hollywood Book of Stock Irish Characters. He said things like "Top 'o the morning to you" and probably kept leprechauns in his pockets. I expect that after a long day's window-cleaning he went home and played Irish fiddle music all evening. That kind of thing.

Anyway, he'd turn up carrying a bucket and an impossibly long ladder, prop it against the house so the top was hidden in the clouds, and clean the windows, very efficiently and with no apparent fear either of plunging to his death or of having his head removed by low-flying planes.

But finally, aged about 134, he retired and suddenly we had no window cleaner.

After a horrible pause in which a thick fog coated all the windows, a commercial window-cleaning company knocked on the door and they cleaned them from time to time for a couple of years. They were rather expensive and didn't do a very good job.

Since then, nothing.

Now actually, I wouldn't mind cleaning them myself, if only I had a very very long ladder, because I don't mind heights - I rather like them, in fact. Let's face it, to digress again for a moment, I spent a week in Barcelona last autumn going on the cable car and the cathedral roof and high up the tower of the Sagrada Familia cathedral. So no, I don't mind heights, as long as I'm not falling off them.

But I'm very, very busy and in my leisure time, cleaning windows is not my first priority. Or my second, or third, or - - - well, you know. So the windows have gradually been covered in a kind of grey mist. Sitting in the office we could see the garden only in our mind's eye - - the reality had become a blurry memory.

Then, today, a young Polish couple came up the path and knocked on the front door. "Would you like us to clean your windows?"

I had their bucket under my hot tap before they could say another word. "And when you've done this house, could you do my mother's house as well?"

They did a grand job. It took them all afternoon, and lots of hot water, and they worked incredibly hard. At one point I went out to offer them a cup of tea, only to find that my mother had already made them tea, plied them with biscuits and was now deep in conversation with them as they worked their way round her windows. I expect she'll be going to stay with them in Poland soon.

Then off they went, promising to come back in a few weeks, and I looked out of the windows and - I am proud to report - this house now has an outside as well as an inside. There are trees, and lawns, and flowers and everything. The windows sparkle. Brilliant.


Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

Somewhere in your youth or childhood, you must have done something good.

11:00 pm  
Blogger Debby said...

Do you think they'd want to visit America??? My windows don't even need a ladder to clean. They are, however, very, very dirty!

3:46 am  

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