I have to fire my cleaner. She’s a terrible racist for a start, but quite apart from that she utterly sucks at her job. She didn’t used to, but familiarity breeds contempt they say, and over time she has gotten into the habit of spending less and less time here, speeding up the time by taking grubby shortcuts.

My cleaner, or house maid as an American friend once refereed to her, calls black people “nig nogs” and when I talked to her about raising money for African aid she went on for ages about how she “doesn’t give money to black charities.” That conversation was deeply offensive and I should have just fired her right then and there I suppose.

But every time I’ve decided to fire her something awful happens in her life. First her little boy had some terrible medical problem that restricted his breathing. Then her marriage hit the rocks. Then her father died a slow and gruesome death from cancer. Each time I’ve been ready to fire her but then I learn about the latest disaster and I just feel like I can’t add to that. In the last two years you can see the stress of life has taken its toll. She used to be a larger lady, but worry and stress have meant she’s lost pounds, and now she’s slim. (There’s something to be said for stress and dieting perhaps?)

But last time she was here she pissed me off about going on for ages about me getting married.
“You need to find yourself a good woman Simon, settle down and get married, have a family, that’s what you need to do.” She said.
“Really?” I answered “Do I seem unhappy to you?”
“Well no, but you’re getting on a bit now and so you should get married, start a family, settle down and all that.”

I felt like saying something like “Oh yeah, good idea, I mean that’s worked out so well for you!” But I resisted.

“Well okay then Wend, I’ll go out this afternoon, down to the wife shop and I’ll find me a nice wife then.” I answered sarcastically.
“You know what I mean.” She said in an annoying tone.
“Well I’m not sure I do. I think you’re implying that we’re not complete unless we’re married, and that I have somehow reached my ‘due date’ and that if I don’t get married this year or very soon then I’m a big ol’ loser.”
“All’s I’m saying Si, is that you’re not getting any younger.”
“Well gee, aren’t I? I am glad you pointed that out Wend, see kuz I thought I was.”

I was happy to leave the conversation there as I turned back to my keyboard and carried on with work. But typical Wendy, she just couldn’t put it down could she.

“Well all’s I’m saying is that you can’t be single forever Si.”
I couldn’t help myself. I had to respond. “Oh you can’t? Who says. Is there a law that I am unaware of?”
“For happiness I suppose is what I’m saying.” She explained.
“Oh happiness. So what you’re saying is that I need to hurry out find myself a nice wife because if I don’t I’ll not continue to be happy?”
“Well Si, you’re not getting any younger. Girls won’t look at you when you’re old.”
“Tell that to Sean Connery Wend.”
“Well he’s got money.”
“So let me get this straight, the only thing that makes girls find Sean Connery attractive is the fact he’s got money?”
“Well it helps.”
“So, by your standards, I need to hurry out this afternoon and get a wife from somewhere, any old wife will do. Then I need to bring her back here, marry her, impregnate her, buy a fucking ford escort, and this is the key to a happy life that I cannot possibly attain unless i follow those steps. Because one day I’ll be old and gray and unless I have money I won’t be able to find a woman who would want to spend any time with me?”
She laughed and said “Well something like that.”

Maybe I should have just stopped there, but now I was angry. So I decided, rather unfairly I suppose, to continue.

“So Wendy. Marriage is the key to happiness then? So how come your marriage is so unhappy. I mean you’ve said before that you hate Steve [her husband], so how does hating the person your married to lead to this happiness you’re talking about?”
“Oh eh Si, that’s a little unfair.”

She was right of course. It was unfair, but I listen to her go on like this week in and week out and I usually just nod and let her go on but today I wasn’t going to let this deeply unhappy woman preach to me about how much happier I could be when I feel like I have a great life, and if marriage is around the corner then sobeit, if not then sobeit too!

“Why is it unfair Wend? When have I ever told you I am unhappy? When have you ever got the sense I might be unhappy? When was the last time I told you how the weight of life is getting me down? I think you’ll find I have never done that. Yet you Wend, you’ve probably never once come here without telling me something is shit in your life. You’re always facing some tragedy or some disaster and by your own admission your marriage is a joke! So you’ll forgive me when I get a little irked that you feel justified in giving me advise about how I might obtain happiness that you don’t have.”

She was kind of stunned. She put her hands on her hips and said “Well say what you think won’t you Si.” Then I realized I had probably just really hurt her. So I back-peddled a bit saying I didn’t mean to be nasty but that I am actually very happy in life.

She shrugged it all off and changed the subject. Outwardly she’s made of nail, but inside I think she’s falling apart, and as she went on her way I felt bad that I’d just said what I had. Part of me wishes I could have been more diplomatic, but then she’s my cleaner, not my friend, and had she not said anything to me about how I might be more happy we probably wouldn’t have gotten into that whole thing anyway.

So how the heck can I fire her now. I feel bad about what I said, no matter how true it was. If I fire her it’s going to seem very personal, when really it is mostly because she’s a crap cleaner! The problem comes in that I would still see her once a week as she cleans the hairdressing salon downstairs, so when she cleans the conservatory I often see her.

Maybe I’ll give it two of three more weeks. But in that time you just know there will be an all new disaster in her life.