Friday 15 June 2007

I'm seeing how the other half live, by living like my sister!

pool cleaner
My sister is a wonderful and beautiful person, as are her two daughters, my nieces. Not only are they attractive, generous and warm-hearted, but also they enjoy a lifestyle that ranks them up there with the 'beautiful people'.
For the last nine days, while they are away in Beverly Hills on a working holiday, I have been living alone in their house, looking after their two cats and being around for my parents, who live just around the corner.
Thankfully my Dad is now back home, feeling generally better, and as far as he is concerned, altogether fine.
The rest of us are still living each day as it comes, because we, possibly more than him, are fully aware of the gravity of what happened.
Had I not offered to stay here, my sister would have cancelled her holiday, so it really was not a difficult decision to make.
These trips to southern California are vital to my sister, not only because they replenish her spirit and soul, but also because she is able to do vital business, as the most exclusive of high fashion companies come to sell their lines to her as she sunbathes by the hotel pool.
From one tiny clothes shop in north-west London, my sister has for the last 30 years financed the lifestyles to which she and her girls have become accustomed. My respect for her knows no bounds, especially as she has done with her life exactly what I have done with mine own: identify what it is she loves to do, and then made a living out of it.
The main difference between us is that while my lifestyle is full to the brim with the riches of humanity and love, it is not exactly stuffed with cash, whereas my sister's is, to use one of her favourite words, 'stunning.'
Each day during my stay I endeavour to do the two things that maintain my sanity; that is, to walk and to write.
The former has proved easy, although trailing along the pavements of polluted London roads serves only to make me really miss my view over Galway Bay to County Clare.
The latter, the writing, has proved more difficult. Even though the house is empty save for me and the cats, there flows through the place an incredible and seemingly endless torrent of staff who come to 'do' things.
In the last seven days, the house has been cleaned twice by Milla, who sings as she bangs around the house. After she left on the first day the place was immaculate, and the next day, as far as I could make out, she stripped the beds of the very same sheets she had cleaned the previous day, washed and ironed the sheets and then remade the same beds with the same sheets.
A few days later the lovely Yasmin came to wash down the paintwork and clean the house yet again.
By the time she arrived, the house had also been visited by the gardener; the pool man (who, as far as I could make out, did nothing but take a leaf blower to the leaves floating on top of the cover of the heated swimming pool in the back garden!); the car washers and the window cleaners.
How fantastic it must be to go off on holiday leaving your house messy and dirty, only to return to find it all shiny and sparkly, fluffed up pretty pillows sitting on pristine ironed sheets.
In the meantime, I am losing touch with reality. Life as I normally know it is but a distant memory. I have been home for 9 days in 5 weeks, and feel a little bewildered in my sister's world of luxury.
As I sit simultaneously recording and watching TV programmes on her Sky+ big screen TV, I watch the steam rising from her swimming pool, aware that under the pool cover, a wheeled droid patrols the pool bottom, cleaning algae and picking up leaves as it goes on its 24 hour a day journey.
Everywhere I go there are TV's. There is of course a TV in the TV room, but there is also one in the lounge-dining room, and one in each of the four bedroom upstairs. In bed at night, as I reach for the remote control to adjust the air-conditioning, I worry how this house leaves upon our planet a carbon footprint the size of Cyprus.
As I sit here scribbling, the dishwasher gurgles behind me, reminding me of a time 20 years ago when my lovely nieces visited me in my London flat.
I always took them both out on their birthdays, and the highlight of each trip would be a ride on a bus, because Uncle Charlie didn't have a car back then.
My nieces are heavenly creatures, but they never travelled on public transport, so I saw these treats as part of their education.
Anyway, on one such occasion, just before we were about to leave the flat, I was finishing off washing a few dishes that had been lying in the sink.
The older of my nieces suddenly frowned and looked plain scared.
"Ch-Ch-Charlie! What are you doing?" she spluttered.
"I'm just doing the dishes!" I replied, only to see her take a deep lungful of breath and scan every nook and cranny of my skanky old kitchen.
"But but but where is you dishwasher?" they chorused together.
"Don't have one, girls. Not everybody has a dishwasher, you know!"
But, quite simply, they didn't, and they still don't.
I begrudge my sister and her girls not one penny-pinching grote of their lovely life. I am happy that they can drive their Mercs and Beemers around the leafy suburbs. They work bloody hard and happen to sell a lot of very expensive clothes to exceedingly wealthy people.
All I wonder is that if they have never experienced any kind of real or relative financial hardship, how on earth do they fully appreciate what they have?
Personally, I love my life the way it is back in Salthill, and having lived way too close to several fiscal edges, am most thankful for everything I own and rent.
Obviously I never want my sister and her daughters to suffer in any way, but I hope that in their quest for the heights of style they do not miss the wonders of the true substance of life.


whispering blue said...

Amen to that mate.......ironically a great fortune could be made flogging wheeled droids to the harbour commission, the corpo, the county council. Galway's water would be pristine for the whitbread and your fiscal woes banished!!!

Anonymous said...

...ah, indeed, if only the wheeled droid was of my own making, I'd be diving in deep and fast ... nice one! - Charlie

Anonymous said...

that wouldn't be the Derry whispering blue by any chance, of sky blue blood type?