Stained, soiled and sore.

Already my new red jumper has threads pulled. Which is of no great consequence to anyone but me. I had hoped the jumper might hold its newness for a while longer and then comforted myself with the thought, like the first scratch on a new car, the first wound on a baby’s skin, it takes away the pressure to maintain this pristine state. 

It’s all downhill from here. Downhill or uphill, however you look at it. But at least that sense of fragility that accompanies the use of something brand new diminishes once the first blemish erupts.

By way of contrast, every renovation in this house is unfinished. Somehow the strips of moulding that go to seal the floor and wall joins have never been put in place. The builders on the second renovation went bust and I had a baby a week early and so those small finishing touches were never completed. Although my husband swore, he’d get around to them one day, it never happened. 

It’s funny how those small, unfinished bits get forgotten, if only visually. I don’t notice them anymore even when I get the vacuum cleaner out over the years and find myself trying to scoop up a lone paper clip, or safety pin, bead or Lego piece that got trapped in the small openings still visible between the parquetry floor’s ending and the wall.

So many treasures slipped into this cavity and many I will never reach. Most of the time I don’t even notice but I wonder about an observant visitor. Will they notice the incompleteness of my house, or the thick dust that turns to a sliver of grime on the ledges of window tucked behind curtains and rarely visited,

Ever since our cleaner stopped coming during Covid and I’ve taken on the task of housework here along with my daughter and occasional efforts from her boyfriend, I’ve noticed the cobwebs are on the increase and the dust is beginning to leave its mark. I get to the major cleaning tasks, the bathrooms, toilets, kitchen sink and floors, but the ledges that are everywhere do not scream to me as loudly, until it’s too late and there’s a film of dust across almost every unused surface. 

Olga Lorenzo once told a writing class I attended when one of our group was complaining she had too little time to write because her teaching job swallowed up all her time, ‘What would you prefer they wrote on your grave stone: “They kept a tidy house”, or they wrote a fantastic book?’ 

The latter of course. 

The question stays with me and justifies in my mind at least my comfort in not spending too many hours on housework. Then I watched the pleasure in my daughter’s eyes when she completed sewing a summer hat yesterday, from scraps of material she’d collected first for mask-making under Covid. She dragged out the sewing machine and took to ordering patterns online. She now sews away in her spare time. Her satisfaction is palpable. A sense of a job well done, a task completed, something to show for her efforts. 

My daughter completes these pieces. Her perfectionist father has more trouble getting things to that finished stage, that stage where once you decide enough is enough, you must then accept its imperfections, no further amount of work on it will improve it. Now it only needs to age and grow tarnished in the process.

For a long time now I’ve been dancing around a title for my second book, one of those memorable titles that signpost the book’s contents without giving too much away. An enticing title and there are so many around at the moment. 

I love the way book titles these days can encompass entire clauses and even multiple clauses, never quite a sentence. I love the way people are playing around with ideas in the titles. And I want to do something similar which is why the title that came to me, ‘If he touches you, scream’, may not work. It did the minute it snuck into my head but on further reflection, it loses its appeal. 

Book titles hint at beauty, even when the book offers ugliness and cruelty at its core. And all I can think about now are those early blemishes on my skin, well before the acne of adolescence. When I was small, I developed a series of school sores on my face around my lips and nose and on my knee. The scars are still there as if from wounds. They must have been deep those sores. And in my memory, the colour purple. They used gentian violet to deal with outbreaks. I only learned as an adult that school sores are contagious, that we can pass them on, that I must have collected them from a sibling or passed them on, much the way we can pass on this virus which tyrannises us at present. 

The cat has begun to squawk, the kettle just boiled, and life drags me away from my writing as it tends to do every morning after I’ve written for a short time. Insistent life which calls more loudly than the cat. I have jobs to do, rooms to clean, floors to vacuum and toilets to disinfect before I can settle into that restful time called the weekend. 

And still no title for my book. Still no moulding for the floor. Everything incomplete. Everything flawed. Stained, soiled and sore.