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The cleaning man who never was - By Rebecca Wicks

Our cleaner hasn't been round for almost three weeks now. He usually comes by every Thursday, but since the Great Floods a few weeks ago we haven't heard a peep. Of course, we're hoping he hasn't been washed away, but also playing on our minds right now is the fact that our kitchen hasn't been cleaned for 18 days and we're running out of plates.

My bathroom mat is the worst thing of all. Two Friday's ago I found myself a little worse-for-wear after an all-day session at Spectrum On One, and bought myself the usual 3am pie from 24/Seven round the corner. Somehow, between finishing the pie and falling into bed, I managed to coat the bathroom rug in a fine layer of flaky pastry. Worryingly, the majority of flakes are at the top end, adjacent to the toilet. Now, I'd hate for anyone to judge me, or make any lewd loo-based meat chewing assumptions, but every day since then I've been forced to re-trace those forgotten steps, drawing a frustrating blank every time. And it's not very nice.

Had the cleaner been round and sucked up my sins with the hoover, I'd have long since regained my dignity and probably had a few more late night pies. But as it is, the whole thing's ruined for me. And my rug looks bloody terrible.

Also annoying are the hairballs that have started floating down the corridor, between mine and the flatmate's bedrooms and the lounge. I'm not sure which are hers and which are mine, but each delicate tumbleweed is a tragic reminder of how bad things could get if he never comes back at all. What if they all join up together in the corner of the living room and block the telly? What if one huge hairball collects beside the fridge and we accidentally cook it up with our dinner, and choke, and wind up in hospital, and our families have to fly over and identify our remains after the autopsies reveal nothing but intestines, filled with our own, matted hair?

Quite sadly, we don't have the cleaner's phone number. He was but a weekly blessing arranged for us by the previous tenant - a fairy in flip flops with an enviable flair for cushion arrangements. We can't get in touch because although he's been cleaning apartments in our building for a while, nobody seems to know who he is, or indeed, where he comes from.

I'm well aware that this new woe would not have factored into my previous, London existence. I never had a cleaner there and neither did anyone I knew. I never needed one and never did I think that I could ever come to rely on one. How worrying it is that I am only realising now - whilst watching floating hairballs in horror and tentatively washing a fork on my own - how much I might have changed.

The doorman said he would arrange a new cleaner for us this morning, which took a load off our minds. Tension's been mounting and cutlery's running low - neither of us can remember how to use a broom and we can't go out onto the balcony to fetch the mop because the floor is so disgusting now that our feet would turn black in the process. I'm sure the new guy will do a marvelous job and we can resume our usual carefree pattern of existence, but we'll always wonder what became of the cleaning man who never was.

Posted: 30 Jan 2008

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