Friday, February 26, 2010


Going to school has brought with it many challenges. We have been a home school family, a nomadic, drifting, impermanent family on and off for many years. A family whose dreams included a life lived in tents, under trees, beneath a canopy of blue sky. A life without an iron.

Its not that I cannot iron. Even Lex can (who ever went to Army and never learnt that skill?) Its just that ironing, amongst other things has not been a priority. Mostly.

I guess its part of a much bigger picture - being netjies - generally.

I grew up with a working mother, who cannot cook, and did not do anything of a domestic nature - at all, ever. We had a maid, full time, always, living in the back yard, hardly never there. Looking after myself, when I left home was an adjustment, for years.

I have wrestled with this cleaning thing. For years, during my political struggle, I did not employ anyone ever, to clean up after me. Neither did my friends. I lived with some of the richest, most privileged offspring, and the messiest!

Overseas I was a wife, mother, and servantless for years. I mastered all the domestic arts. I cleaned other peoples houses! I cleaned up in an Irish pub, cleaning upstairs bedrooms after people who had rough nights of.......
It cured me of any sensibilities about cleaning. I came to a revelation - the only way it makes any sense at all is to be paid to do it.

Back home we have had times of abundance when we have employed people , and although good they are always times fraught with care. I am a terrible employer. I cannot help but be a friend. By Gods grace I have been spared users and abusers, because a used and abused employer I would be - I have seen it happen to many of my best friends!

Its distressing though, the lives of the poor and needy , the refugees, the single mothers. Many hours have been spent in my home, over cups of coffee, listening to tales of woe and abandonment. My husband is no better. In better times he was often to be seen delivering furniture and assorted goods to employees in need - once using his boss's Merc sports to ferry our maids daughter to her matric farewell... Life is complicated when one is an employer.

So, mostly as home-schoolers we resorted to the chore system, working our children to get things done! Those days are over. There is a saying - if you want something done, ask a busy person. Its true it seems, as these days we accomplish early risings, cooked breakfasts, all of us rushing out to school, sometimes doing 4 trips back and forth in the afternoon before we are all settled at home once more. Then there is the washing, the ironing, the food to be cooked.

And netjies we are, mostly. But my house is not pristine. In fact, some days it is an absolute mess. I have been known to lie on my bed and stare out my window at the rural scene, when there is work to be done. There are hours I spend under the Syringa tree scribbling when the laundry basket is overflowing onto the grubby bathroom floor. I can be found (like now) punching away on my laptop when I know the floor needs to be swept and there are dishes to be washed.

The point is, I need dream time. House work, they say is a thankless task. I have to agree. There are those who love it, thrive on it. My friends tell me about 'Fly Lady'. I know they want to help, but the only 'Fly Lady' I'll ever be is the one in the kitchen on a very hot day, looking up with an air of hopelessness at the disgusting fly strips, hanging like filthy streamers from the ceiling, knowing that they need to be changed, yet again.

So, the dilemma continues, having never mastered the art of making the domestic worker invisible ( lets live our life as if she does not exist) I constantly turn to them when they are in my home and make asides, about the drama of our life being played out before them. My sister cleans her house the day before her char is due to come. Ho hum, whats the sense of that? But, I totally understand.

So, please forgive the hairballs that always seem to gather beneath my couch (damn dogs! ), the laundry basket that is never empty, the dishes that are hardly ever all packed away. I don't think I'll ever get it right, but in the mean time thanks for all those marvellous books I get to read, flights of fantasy DVDs I get to watch, dreamy dreams I get to dream, and the endless scribblings I get to scribble.
The ironing can wait...

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