I woke up this morning fighting my way out from the duvet, still locked in a suffocating dream in which I was crushed under a mountainous heap of laundry, with only my Louboutin-clad feet sticking out like the Wicked Witch of the East. True, it made quite a change from my current recurring nightmare, in which all the hopes of my company rescuing itself from the brink of financial disaster rest solely on my shoulders. I guess I should be grateful for any kind of dream at all, since even my unconscious collapses into an exhausted heap at the end of the day and can't be bothered to serve anything up for me to analyse on the tube into work, Jungian textbook in hand.
Anyway, having fretted all week about the difficult circumstances in which Modern Woman finds herself, I find I have the answer: there is no miracle that can't be worked if one is knee deep in staff. Unfortunately, one also has to be knee deep in cash for this to be an option, but it's an answer of sorts. My real issue is that Nature abhors a vacuum and so do I. The straw that breaks this camel's back is always housework. When I think of dust I immediately think of Philip Pullman, or even Eliot, rather than the ghastliness that lurks under the bed and the sofa and on every surface. Divine VW would never have contemplated starching Leonard's collars. I can't see her ever having a meltdown over the Hogarth presses about his inability to move a coffee cup from sitting room to sink, or a trauma about repatriating socks and pants with laundry basket. Her marvellousness was entirely predicated on armies of people 'below stairs'. So I am convinced I'm living a century too late. I should have been a nice Edwardian lady with suffragette leanings, much in the manner of the mother in Mary Poppins: Chicly campaigning in a costume of green and purple without having to involve oneself with anything ghastly like force feeding or the King's racehorse. On reflection a spot of elegant marching or a little light chaining to the railings of the Houses of Parliament might have been possible. I would have been sustained in any attendant creative endeavours by an army of loveliness. Think how blissful it would be to have someone to do the washing and the shopping and to remember to put food on the table at regular intervals. All these things appear to be beyond me. But if there was a collection of willing helpmeets, imagine how much fabulousness I'd be able to radiate, and how many bon mots I'd be able to offer, and how delighted Mr Trefusis and I would be to see each other every evening instead of snarling in a way that's only ever really mitigated by the consumption of vast amounts of wine. Yes. It all comes down to The Servant Question.
And here I am, struggling womanfully through a life that resembles a king size duvet inside a cot bed cover, horribly peeved at the injustice of being too poor to have a housekeeper, a nanny and hot and cold running maids in every room. I have a reputation for competence at work completely belied by my domestic situation, in which the entire family is often faced with a total lack of matching socks and an absence of essentials like milk, cereal and lavatory paper. My only saving grace is our proximity to the Co-op.
In truth, I do have 'help'. I have a cleaning lady for what is supposed to be three and a half hours a week, though judging by the evidence I can only think that the cleaning takes her half an hour and she spends the rest lying on the chaise longue eating violet creams. But she speaks no english, and I'm unable to offer her any written or spoken instruction. The best I can hope for is that she intuits what needs doing around the house. Mostly she intuits that the orchids need rearranging, and that the bears in Hunca Munca's cot could be more agreeably positioned, happily ignoring the snowdrift of dust and fluff that has built up behind every door and on the bookshelves. The house is marginally tidier when she's been, but certainly no cleaner.
And this is why I'm writing this post at six minutes to midnight, with dirty dishes still stacked in the sink, the last load of washing still unhung, a dusting of ground cocopops underfoot unswept up from breakfast yesterday, Kafka still languishing on the side unread, and another week wading through the blood on the office carpet looming ahead of me.
On second thoughts, what I actually need is a wife.