When I lived in a shared house in Chorlton for a year before moving to France, we had a cleaner. Before that I lived with my parents for a couple of years without domestic responsibilities. The poor boyfriend hadn’t really spent enough time with me to realise how un-housetrained I was before I rocked up suitcase in hand to move in. I hadn’t cooked anything in years – I’d spent the past year out on the town most nights, ordering takeaway or stuffing myself with Philadelphia crackers, because they don’t go off in between times. In rural France there are no takeaways. Before the summer starts there are only about two restaurants open in the village and we’d been through both menus. The boyfriend had cooked dinner a couple of times and I knew it was my turn. “So how would you go about frying an egg?” I asked casually.
I had to give things a go and learn quickly because I hated having to keep asking how to do it and if I was doing it right. One evening he asked if I’d light the log burner and I realised I’d no idea how to go about it. There’s not much call for fire lighting in Manchester outside of Moss Side. He wanted to get on with jobs round the house and everyone over here has lots of land to tend – could I paint, plaster, garden? No, and I felt useless. I tried to clean the outside of the oven but just succeeded in rubbing off all the symbols round the dials and leaving the surfaces streaky. I broke the shower head and the hose end. Somehow I exploded an outdoor wooden step just by walking on it.
But we persevered and two months on I have helped build decking around the hot tub, mixed concrete, planted a rockery, used Ghostbuster-style weedkiller in a backpack to decimate two entry lanes, stained decking areas and gates, and wire-tied a fence together. Last weekend I used a pressure hose to clean an outdoor table that went from dilapidated and crusty to shiny and inviting of a coffee cup. The sense of power and achievement was uplifting. Now I get down and dirty in the garden with hardly a second thought for my arch-nemesis The Slug and have earned the nickname RustiKatie. Inside the house I’m DomestiKatie. I rustle up a lot of the dinners since my triumph with a quail casserole when I insisted on being left alone in the kitchen and despite the sweating, swearing and the smoke alarm going off I made a beautiful meal. I asked the boyfriend recently how he’d sum up the experience of my moving in, and he just came out with what’s now become my tagline: “You’re cheaper than a TV licence, more entertaining, and dirtier after the watershed.” Yes, my BBC days are over for good I think.
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