It was when I had just finished school and was taking a year out to work and to go travelling, except I had no work so I joined this posh temp agency in Clapham who found posh sounding girls like me and matched them with even posher, rich people who needed people to walk their dogs, open their post, look after their hamsters and occasionally their children.
The first job I had was nannying two gorgeous little boys in Hampstead Heath. They had to be dressed in colour co-ordinating clothes every day. I was more interested in their uncle than in their clothes. Still I did a good job. The boys loved me, the uncle definitely liked me.
Then I got offered another job and I said yes, because there was nothing else on the horizon. And it turned out the job was cleaning.
I’ll say that again. It turned out the job was cleaning.
If you know me you’ll know that’s funny.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know how funny.
It gets better. It turns out that the job was not just cleaning a four bed house in Esher but that the job was for the Daily Mail who were running a piece on how much a housewife was worth. So they’d brought in a cleaner, housekeeper, cook, chauffeur and nanny to replace the miserable lady of the house, to illustrate that a housewife’s value was roughly $895,409 a year. Or something.
So Daily Mail.
So there I am, eighteen years old, in my ripped jeans, staring at a mop thinking WTF am I supposed to do with this thing? But I give it a go because I’m being paid something like £7.50 an hour and surely it can’t be that hard?
By the end of the week I’ve mastered hovering and dusting. Mastered in the same way I’ve mastered mothering and Indonesian and meditating and cooking.
The funny thing is I guess as a teenager you never think ahead that much – never really run though things like consequences – so I never thought ahead to the fact that on Monday when my job was finished it was going to be analysed in the Daily Mail and my performance judged by the entire population of middle England.
So Monday dawns and there I am in black and white pixilated fuzziness, but clearly still me, arms slung across chest, half scowl on my face, clearly more worried about how I looked than the fact that my cleaning ability was about to be dissed.
Which is was. The housewife in question spent 300 words yapping about the amazing cook and chauffeur and nanny and then 30 words dismissing the cleaner who she felt wasn’t up to scratch. A waste of money.
That’s what I was. A waste of money. That’s what all Tory voting, daily hate reading, asylum loathing housewives would now be thinking of me. (Funnily enough about ten years later a Daily Mail reader would call me ‘a monkey in a room with a pen’ – reading about a refugee integration programme I’d set up which the Daily Hate, being the Daily Hate was obviously outraged about – refugees clearly being illegal benefit scroungers who deserved to be held in prison and then sent home to be tortured but I digress…)
I am thinking about this story (of me being outed in public as a rubbish cleaner) as I come up the stairs of my house in Bali. I am thinking about it as I notice the freshly made beds and the folded laundry and the clean, mopped bathroom floor. And I’m still thinking about it as Kadek comes in with my cup of tea.
I am a rubbish cleaner. I can live with this. I embrace my inner teenager, who still wears ripped jeans (though now cut offs), and converse, and still folds her arms over her chest when confronted with the unpleasant and who still scowls at anything which is lame.
I embrace Kadek.