Going solo

In Cairo, a lively debate was had amongst a group of expat ladies about what we called our, well, housekeepers/live in nannies come housekeepers/cleaners/or, gasp, the word English speaking Egyptians use: maid. Straight off the bat let me say that it is considered downright stingy to the point of rudeness to be able to afford um, a woman-what-does, and not employ one. That’s right. If you can afford a [insert here your term], then, socially, you must. This not a relic of colonial times dragged out by the modern Western expatriate community reliving some former glory (that they mostly weren’t part of in the first place), but an informally formal social system that functions in place of a governmental welfare system. If you do not employ the widowed cleaner, she will have a very hard time feeding her family.

Never mind the never ending nightmare of Cairo dust exacerbated by ill-fitting windows…

I digress.

Having lived within this social norm for the whole of my life since graduation, I am back in “The Real World” as Mr S (I would almost say that stands for Smug here..) likes to say. I am not a stranger to a dustpan and brush, nor a ghastly toilet brush. Not at all – and for that very reason, I delighted in the fact that if I planned a dinner correctly, I could leave everything in the kitchen and the next day, by about 9.30am it would all be either in the dishwasher (yes, I’m that lazy) or (if I wasn’t that lazy) back in the cupboards. I revelled in the joy that is neither washing nor ironing my clothes, even if that did mean a shrunken cashmere sweater and whites turned pink on the odd occasions, precisely because I knew what what an annoyance it is to do it myself.

So, now in The Real World, I find that in order to keep our modest apartment clean, it takes at least an hour a day. There is DUST. Shocking really that wet, cold midwinter, with our windows almost always closed and the nearest desert about 1000 miles away, that there should be so much of the bloody stuff.

And then there’s the ironing…

What I cannot quite get my shrunken-from-the-cold-head around is how people actually manage to have a reasonably clean house AND work AND have kids (and not have any form of outside help). So, inside my temple of delight (aka a library with books in English) I found my Christmas reading:

Tweedle dum (a whopping 834 pages including index)


Tweedle dee (a lesser, but mighty fine 373 pages, no index)
I started last night. By goodness there’s got to be only one thing worse than doing housework: reading about it. Or perhaps not, given the first sample’s verbosity, editing it clearly proved a mind-numbing task! The editor’s lack of textual interference is perhaps further evidenced by this corker. A little context first though. There is a list of tasks divided by the frequency with which they should be completed. On the ‘Daily’ list, just after “Neaten; put away newspapers, magazines, and similar items” and just before “Empty trash and garbage containers (evening)” comes, “Do interim marketing, when necessary”. Now, while I may know how to change a hoover bag, I have never heard of marketing as a household chore. Upon closer inspection of the waffling text, it appears this would mean that I need to pick up small food/household items as necessary during the week that I didn’t get on my weekly (see Weekly list) shopping trip to the superMARKET… 
Yaw…sorry, I’m still here. Are you finding it all as thrilling as me?
Never mind, I’m sure these encyclopaedia will include some top tips that get better (and funnier) with a mince pie, some fine chocolates and a glass or two of sherry….

3 thoughts on “Going solo

  1. I think I need to check out one of these books! Last year I became a 'housewife' when I moved to France and holy cr*p, it never ends! The cleaning never ends! I feel like I'm going in circles because I'm constantly working, and nothing ever seems to get done. And I don't even have children yet! I honestly don't know how some women do it. Maybe they've read these books? (here's hoping)

    I just found you via Expatwomen so thought I'd pop by and say hi! :-)

  2. One of the most treasured, and probably shallowest delights of my expat life was having household help of all sorts. Shallow or not, I figured I was helping out the local economy by giving people jobs.

    Soon I hope to be living the expat life again, and you'll bet I'll get help to do the housework.

    I love those old "homemaking" bibles. Truly, there are treasures within, so keep reading!

  3. Hi Sara Louise! It's truly a nightmare. I keep remembering Baz Luhrman (or someone like him) saying something like, "Leave the ironing, do something fun, if you die tomorrow, you won't regret not ironing". V true, but the chances are that I won't die tomorrow and the ironing will be there, just even more of it than today!!

    Miss Footloose – fingers crossed for the expat life again! I loved having it done, however, sometimes it wasn't always hassle free. I never ended it though because, as you say, if you are living somewhere where you could employ someone easily, it is kind of your duty to help out… Going to keep reading, but they are heavy going!

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