Well hello there.
I've been meaning to catch up for a little while, but time and tide, and all that. Anyway, life here trucks along. Half term was actually completely manic. The town was crazy busy, and therefore so was Ship Shape. We worked every day, and I have the repetitive strain that comes from cleaning glass shower cubicles to prove it. Mum moved down last Friday, and is currently ensconced in the teeny spare room. Olly is loving having her here. She has chocolate. As am I. She does my ironing. Ultimately the plan is for her to move into a place of her own, but I think we are leaving the search until the new year. A little time for the dust to settle, and for her to get into the rhythm of life in St Ives.
Running has rather taken a back seat these past few weeks. I don't seem to have enough hours in the day at the moment, and something has had to give. But I had a quite wonderful run this morning, and I am hopeful that November will give me further running opportunities. We will be quieter this month and next. The town has less visitors during these months, and I have to admit that I am relishing some time to devote to other things. Things like painting, baking, writing, pottering and walking. And just being in one spot for more than five minutes.
An interesting work development has been landing a contract with a lettings agency to clean empty properties before new tenants move in, or after they've done a bunk and moved out. It's been a very steep learning curve for Karen and I. Not the actual scrubbing. But dealing with - how shall I say - really bloody rude and patronising people who think that one's worth is decided by the assumptions made on the job one does. I don't know about you, but I was brought up to treat others as I would like to be treated myself. And my Dad impressed upon me from a very young age that no-one was more worthy than me, because of a position they held in society and vice versa. I think I've lived my life with these two tenants as a core of who I am. I am equal to all, and all are equal to me. And I would hope that I treat those around me or with who I come in contact with, in a respectful manner.
It's been a real shocker that both me and my sister in law have been roundly patronised, looked down upon and taken for fools this week. It has sat very badly with me. I've felt angry and frustrated. I've taken real exception to the idea that just because I clean for a living it somehow makes me stupid, and also some kind of serf. Honestly my blood just boils thinking about it now. Don't get me wrong; I've had similar experiences in the past. But it has been so transparent this week, that I've had difficulty processing it. On the one hand I want to drop my degree into conversation, just to inform these people that I am more than a mop and a bucket. But this has conflicted with my core belief that I am as worthy a person as the next man, regardless of education or employment. I have found my accent slowly sounding more posh, with really long words creeping into rather mundane conversations. I actually dislike the fact that I'm doing it. But I also really dislike the way that I am being treated, and there is an inner conflict building within.
I mutter to myself "this says more about them, than it will ever say about you." And then find myself enraged that they are talking to my sister in law in that manner too! I feel protective of her, and want to slam them up against their poxy filing cabinet. It really has bought out some overwhelming feelings. I have had to acknowledge to myself that I have got into bed with the devil. For the moment, I am biding my time. I'm hoping that I will somehow change their perspective of others through my sheer force of nature, sharp wit and arcane literary references. However, I'm realising that there are some people that I will have dealings with that are complete dicks, and no amount of Mrs Nice Leanne will ever change that.
It has also been a lesson in humility. This week, we have cleaned two properties that frankly were the most depressing spaces I have ever stepped inside. The landlords had given scant interest to the maintenance and upkeep of said properties. Kitchens were falling apart, and in a very poor state. Bathrooms were run down and tatty. Both properties were in poor decorative repair, with shoddy workmanship throughout. Basic, a landlord would probably call it. I think the word is exploitative. People have to rent these God awful places, because there is such a shortage of decent social housing. The rents charged are sky high, because of the areas that they are in. And they are in this hideous housing trap of paying exorbitant rents, and never being able to save for much else, least of all a deposit on their own home. Cornwall has this reputation as a wonderfully high end place to come and stay. But scratch a little beneath the surface, and there are low wages, zero contract hours, nowhere affordable to live and a few making a mint out of the many.
Karen and I were open mouthed at first, wandering around not knowing where to start. How do you make a silk purse from a sows ear? How can we make this look anything other than bad? So we cleaned and scrubbed and polished and mopped and buffed these horrid places to within an inch of their lives. We felt that at the very least, new tenants could move into somewhere clean and fresh. It was the least we could do. And yes, I know we're being paid (although not as much as you might think), but there's a sense of pride to be had in a job well done. And a sense of sadness that we could do no more than we had.
I came back from one such clean today, and was so grateful for the lovely welcoming space that I live in. I was so grateful for the security that Marc and I can offer our boys. I was happy to feel the heat from the radiators. I was struck by the fact that perhaps our home isn't so bad after all. Yes it's showing a few signs of wear and tear. But it's looked after and maintained. It's full of the personalities of the people who live there, which includes the height charts of Sam, Alf and Olly scratched into the utility room door frame. It is welcoming and inviting, with a few scuffs here and there. It is a home.
I sometimes wonder if there is any point in worrying and fretting about things I cannot change. I live in a society that is unequal in so many respects. That showers opportunity on the few, and dumps on the many. But fret I do. I know that my children have probably a better than average chance of getting on in life. I know that I will probably be okay when I retire. For the most part I have my health, and I can provide for my family so that they can have theirs. I'm not stuck in the poverty trap that so many others are. I'm eternally grateful to my parents for the sacrifices that they made for me in order that I had an education that was not to be had by most kids in my neighbourhood. My horizons were broadened, and I was able to step a little way up the social ladder. The class system still exists in this country; it's just packaged in a different way now. Look at Grenfell. Look at I Am Daniel Blake. Look at food banks and Provident and Cash Converters.
I feel impotent with rage at it all.
And a bit of a hypocrite too.
Thanks for taking the time to read a little snapshot of the processing that has been going on behind the scenes here. It really is appreciated.
Have a lovely week. I shall be baking Christmas cakes, painting the landing, cleaning my own house, walking in the fresh air, taking Alf to the first of three college open events, trying to get Olly to stop saying the word 'moron' and having a gander at the new Home Bargains store that's just opened in Hayle.
All my love,