I don’t understand it at all. The whole world has gone nuts. I can’t comprehend what has happened to young people. They don’t have any values. They are rude, scruffy and ungrateful. We fought a war, two wars, so that they could have everything we didn’t and they throw it back in your face. It makes me bewildered. Sometimes it makes me angry and sometimes it makes me sad but mostly it leaves me in despair. I just don’t understand – still, never mind, best to get on with it. The whole world has gone to pot. Put it to one side and forget about it. That’s the way.
Best listen to the telly and forget it.
I could feel Tom settling his head on my lap. I ruffled his head and he settled contentedly on the settee with his head in my lap – his favourite position. Margaret would never have stood for it – him being up on the furniture – unhygienic and dirty – not the done thing. She was house-proud. She wouldn’t have had him in up on the settee – not a chance in hell. Makes me chuckle to think about it. He most likely wouldn’t have ever been allowed in the front room. She’d probably have railed against him being in the house at all, but would have eventually compromised and allowed him a bed in the corner of the kitchen.
I miss Margaret. She had standards. We didn’t use the front room at all when she was alive. She had the furniture covered and put newspaper down on the floor for us to walk on. You should have seen the caper when someone called unexpectedly; all that crumpling it up and shoving it in the cupboard. The sitting room was for guests. She kept it pristine. We lived in the kitchen. The rest of the house was done to a turn as well. She polished the doorstep every morning, dusted, swept, cleaned and washed until everything was shiny and spotless. She had principles. It is sad that I’ve let it go like I have, but I was never like that, really. Besides, I’m past caring.
I wasn’t like that back then. She used to nag me rotten. But I’ve let things slip. I know it. She’d be horrified if she came back now. She’d probably have a fit. But Margaret has been gone these last twenty years. She is not coming back. I’m on my own. Well, apart from Tom that is. Tom is my only companion now.
It will be Coronation Street soon. I like Coronation Street. Ena’s got herself in a right strop with Minnie. I can’t wait to see how that one is going to turn out. Then I might watch Harry Worth and call it a night. I’ll take a hot cocoa up to bed with me. I used to like to read but my eyesight isn’t what it used to be. My reading days are over. I even have trouble watching the telly now. I have to watch it out of the corner of my eye. It’s an effort. Everything’s a bloody effort these days.
You have to laugh. There’s not much to look forward to, is there? More of the same but gradually worse. Still Arthur rings me on Sunday night. He’s a good lad. That’s something. At least I know he cares. But’s he’s busy. He has work and kids. He can’t keep worrying his head about me. I have to jolly well get on with it.
Mrs Warner was one of a kind. Sometimes I wonder what I am doing working for the madam but I know exactly where I stand with regards to her and her sort. That’s alright with me. Madge would call her a snob, probably to her face but I’m not like that, for sure. I am quite happy to talk to Mrs Warner. She doesn’t frighten me. I tell her what’s what. I don’t stand for any nonsense. I do my job and give her good value for her precious money. She is no better than any of us. But at the same time I know my place. She employs me to do the washing up, clean and hoover. That’s what I do – nothing more, nothing less. We don’t have to be friends or like one another. As far as she is concerned I’m an old Irish woman who is only fit for skivvying. But that is alright with me. It’s all I’ve ever done and I enjoy it. I can wash up and clean as good as anyone, and I don’t mind doing the toilets neither. If she thinks she’s better than me just because she has a plum in her mouth, doesn’t like getting her hands dirty, and her old man works in banking and earns a fortune, she can think again. Money doesn’t make anyone better than anybody else. In fact I think it usually makes people worse. I wouldn’t swap with her for all the tea in China. She can have all her swanky parties and get me to do all the clearing up, she can put on her best lah de dah, she can dress up in her glad rags with all her fancy diamonds, but I’ve got my six girls and she’s got no-one. Who’s the loser? My riches are in warm flesh and blood hers are cold coins. One’s warm and one’s cold.
I work round here two days a week, sometimes three if she’s on an entertaining spree. I tell you they are a bunch of no good wasters, these swanky rich people. You should see the mess they leave after a night of it. All those half full plates of food left to waste. Why take more than you need in the first place? It’s a disgrace, they are worse than pigs, not that I say a word about it to her face about that. She can live how she chooses to live. She pays for it and she can waste it if she wants. She has all her rich friends round, well she calls them friends but I think they are just people to show off to, they aren’t real friends – at least what I’d call friends. I’ve seen some of them when they’ve called in though madam keeps me well out of the way at parties. She doesn’t want them catching sight of the likes of me. That doesn’t stop me from seeing them every now and again arriving in their posh cars all dressed up to the nines. I know the type. I wouldn’t want to be here at their posh dinners. The mess they leave says it all.
Mrs Warner doesn’t do the cooking either. What a fraud she is. She gets people in to do that and kicks them out smartish, so that her posh friends can be entertained without the riff-raff hanging around. They know she doesn’t really cook it. Of course they do. They’re not stupid. But that is all part of the game they all play. They expect you to employ posh cooks to do the meals. All she has to do is decide the menu – poor thing. And she gets in enough of a flap over that, I can tell you.
They are all the same, those so-called pseudo-toffs – not that they are what they’re cracked up to be – they all put on airs but it’s all wind. They do not raise a finger. They leave the whole place like a pig’s sty. There are glasses, dishes and bowls scattered everywhere. Not one of them would think of carrying anything through to the kitchen. That’s a job for the likes of me. What a carry on. Makes me laugh.
I have my instructions. She writes a note if there is anything special she wants me to do. I have to be in at six, do the clearing up as quietly as possible so as not to disturb them while they lie in their golden slumbers and then be gone. I come back in the afternoon, when their lady and lordships are up and recovered, to do the general housework.
And the waste. I can’t get over it. I don’t drink but I know that all that wine doesn’t come cheap. They leave glasses of the stuff and half bottles too. I know it only gets thrown away to be sure. I think it’s all for effect. Silly buggers. They’ve got more money than sense, that’s what I say. There’s always far too much food too, dishes of it. Mrs Warner used to ask me if I wanted to take some home for Bill and myself but I politely said no. I don’t accept handouts. I do my job for a set wage. That’s good enough for me. I know where I stand then. If I were to start accepting gifts I’d be beholden. I’d sooner keep it all out in the open. She can do what she likes with her left-overs. I don’t even know what half of it is anyway and those rich sauces are disgusting. They are all like jelly over everything. So rich and gooey they make me shudder. I wouldn’t want to be eating anything covered in that mess, thank you very much.
My job is straightforward – just how I like it. I hardly ever see them. Just how I like it. I let myself in, collect up all the dishes, wash up, dry up and put everything away so that when they both finally deign to raise themselves out of their besodden pit the house is straight. Then, in the afternoon, I come back to polish and clean so that the whole place is spotless again and they can show it off to all their friends all over. As long as I don’t have to have anything to do with the likes of all them snooty sorts I’m happy. She can keep the lot of them with their stuck up noses and plummy voices. What a bunch of prima donnas.
In the week I go in and spend a day cleaning, hoovering and tidying while she’s out have coffee with her chums, though to be honest there is hardly a speck of dust in the whole place. I still do it thoroughly mind. I don’t skimp. That’s what she pays me to do and I would not like her to think she is being short changed. When I go out of that place there isn’t so much as a smudge anywhere.
I think she appreciates my efforts, the old grouch. ‘Mrs O’Grady’, she often says, ‘I do not know what I’d do without you.’
Well she nearly had to find out when I was taken ill with the cancer. She managed to find someone to tidy her over but I could tell she was more than pleased to have me back.
I keep myself to myself and get on with it. I come from a family of twelve. I’m used to it. We all had to muck in when I was a young girl in Ireland. I was brought up pulling my weight. You weren’t allowed to shirk. But I don’t mind the work. I’m used to it and it keeps me busy.
Mrs Warner gives a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. That’s all I ask. I don’t have to like the woman. I do my job and leave her to it. She has her reward and I have mine. I know which I prefer. I prefer warmth to cold.