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Coming from a relatively poor part of town a lot of the women I knew when I was a kid ‘did cleaning’ in the bigger houses on the hill. Observing Ma Kartoshka’s daily rituals I couldn’t figure out how they had the time to do this. Ma made the maintenance of our own modest 5 room house into a 50 hour a week occupation. The old lady who looked after me when I was little sometimes took me with her on her cleaning jobs. She was a widow and seemed delicately old (she would, I reckon, have been about 65 at the time). I would sit in the dauntingly large rooms, chilly and high ceilinged as she sped around with an antique vacuum (itself a novelty)- the bag blown voluptuously full. She looked the part, in a pink checked tabard with a scarf knotted around her head. Auntie- why can’t Mr and Mrs so and so do their own cleaning?… the question seemed ridiculous to her. But I imagined that only people who were very old or very ill would need this sort of help. It was only as I got older and girls I knew began to take up such jobs that I realised. The rich were buying leisure time- in fact they were buying the leisure time of the poor…
So I’m quite ashamed to say that I regard having a cleaning lady as a hallmark of sophistication. I wonder if the Kartoshka pad would actually benefit? What good could she do, moving carefully amid the piles of clutter?

On reflection what I probably want is a housekeeper– forget the present pad- some other spacious eccentric apartment, with a matronly Mrs Hudson type installed downstairs to appear with tea and cakes at regular intervals. Elementary!

Rina Zelenaya: There’s a young lady to see you, Mr Kartoshka

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