At last I’ve got something to look forward to… Linda has just arranged for her family to stay.
Although there are ever so many of them; and they’re all huge, ravenous eaters who arrive as hungry as a plague of locusts, and leave us in a desert – they rarely stay for more than a couple of months. Of course, it means more work but fortunately Linda’s has an unusual hobby – I don’t know if I ever mentioned it?
The queer thing about Linda, to use an old-fashioned term, is that she loves washing-up. Adores it. She would not allow a dish-washing machine into the house to rob her of the spiritual treasures she says she finds whilst drowning the cutlery in scummy water, swooshing them about a bit, and gazing through a grease-stained window. She says she finds it therapeutic; it gives her a chance to think; and teaches ‘lessons of life’ to those who know where to look. A normal, happy, bubbly person to external appearances, she hides that secret.
The other remarkable thing about Linda – and you’ll know this if you’ve met her – is her ceaseless generosity. She is a generosity-machine. People often express their surprise at it; they tell me that because she was born in Glasgow they had expected that she would be stubborn and difficult to move to acts of charity – that they thought she would require a pretty full account of the facts surrounding how an expiring waif came to be beggared and starving on the city streets before ever she threw them a penny… yet nothing could be further from the truth.
The two traits combine in her hobby… she is not in the least selfish about it – whenever the sink is overflowing with dishes glued together by orange-coloured grease, she does not ‘barge in’ and hog the job all to herself – she offers it around. In fact it’s not too much to say she insists that someone else does it. ‘Let someone else try their hand at it’, says she,’ and take for themselves the benefits which are rightly mine.’
Now, Linda’s family are a jolly lot – in his search for artistic inspiration Hogarth would have given his right arm to see into our living room on any afternoon they happened to be staying… instead of having to make-do with what he found in Gin Lane. Yet even as he tried to warn us, high jinks parts us from life’s finer pleasures… and as Linda’s family know themselves, the washing up would be wasted on them. So the good fortune falls to me.
Even when it’s just the two of us in the house Linda’s generosity toward me is as abundant now, twenty-years-on, as it was the day we met, and I stand at the sink almost overwhelmed sometimes – like a lucky gambler who’s found a one-arm-bandit stuck on three crowns.
I have mastered, through daily practise carried on over twenty years, the tools-of-the-trade – namely a nylon scourer and one of those funny little mops-on-a-stick – yet still the pleasure and enlightenment has not found a way into my thick head.’
More practise, says Linda.
This is not an excerpt from Phoenix from the Ashes - my recently published book… I point out that irrelevant piece of information simply to include a link to it.