I love Mrs Canavan dearly. Well, love’s a strong word but I certainly care for her, much the same way I care whether my football team win at the weekend or that the bin men fully empty the green recycling bin and don’t leave a pile of rotting stinking grass cuttings at the bottom.
And the truth is – and call me a soppy old fool – I’d miss her is she wasn’t there; there’d be no one to brew up of an evening.
But if there is one thing that drives me to despair it is her utter rubbishness (I feel so strongly about this that I’ve made up a new word) at washing-up.
Soon after we moved in together – about three years ago, though it feels much longer – I discovered she was incapable of this simple household task.
Now a man doesn’t expect this. Males cohabit with females for two reasons; the first we don’t need to go into here, the second so she can do the majority of the housework (before all you feminists start writing in to complain, I’m very fair when it comes to the cleaning – I plug the Hoover in for her).
So the discovery that she couldn’t wash pots came as a nasty shock.
I realised it on the first night of living together, when she jumped to her feet after we’d finished eating and offered to do the dishes.
I feared the worst when I saw her washing the greasy frying pan first and the glasses last. ‘You’re not meant to wash-up in that order,’ I ventured. She looked at me the same way I imagine Albert Pierrepoint did his victims before tightening the noose.
When I went to wipe the pots later, I discovered the first plate smeared with tomato ketchup stains. The same for the next plate, and the cutlery, too.
‘Erm, darling,’ I gently called up the stairs, ‘you appear to have missed a bit when you were washing up’.
“Yes, my mum used to say that when I lived at home,” she replied, and carried on painting her nails.
I later asked her to demonstrate how she washed up.
She ran a bowl of soapy hot water – a solid start – picked up a plate, held it beneath the water for around two seconds and then, without scrubbing it or indeed touching it in any way, whipped it out and placed it on the draining board. The dirt that was on it hadn’t budged.
“You don’t use a washing up brush or cloth?” I said, part-shocked, part-devastated at the realisation that I’d just got a joint-mortgage with this woman and it was now too late to split up, or at least not without paying a heavy financial cost.
‘No’, she replied, as if the issue didn’t need any further discussion.
I have done the washing-up ever since, and I don’t mind it – it’s rather pleasant, as one is attacking a troublesome burn mark on a wok with a Brillo pad, to watch the sparrows and wood pigeons gently frolic in the garden, before one of the neighbourhood’s more aggressive cats sneaks up and swallows them whole.
But even then Mrs Canavan manages to make things difficult.
Just after I’ve run a fresh clean bowl of soapy water, she will think nothing of arriving in the kitchen with a half-full mug of coffee and throwing it straight into the water, thus forcing me to run a fresh bowl or have washed pots that have a slight aroma of coffee. When I suggest, lovingly, that it may have been better to leave the half-full mug of coffee on the side so I could wash it last, she tuts, sighs and says it was easier living with her parents.
I have contacted Blackpool and Fylde College to see if they will consider putting on a night school course to teach the basics of washing-up. They’re yet to get back to me but I have my fingers crossed.
A role model to all of us
Leah Washington, the girl who lost her leg in a roller coaster accident at Alton Towers, gave her first television interview since the accident this week – and if you witnessed it then I daresay you were as impressed and as moved as I was.
Just 18 years of age and with her life changed forever after what was supposed to be a fun day out with her new boyfriend at a theme park, she spoke with the most incredible maturity.
You’d expect a girl of her age to be overwhelmed by the situation she is in but there were no tears, just an account of what happened so emotionless and matter-of-fact that it made it all the more heartbreaking to listen to.
Her attitude, this refusal to feel sorry for herself, is at least something that is going to stand her in very good stead for the difficult weeks, months and years ahead.
Her family must be incredibly proud of her, that in the face of the most shocking adversity she is showing such tremendous courage and bravery.
Leah is a fantastic role model for all of us – and perhaps give her and her situation a thought next time you’re cursing the driver in front for failing to indicate or muttering about having to stand in a queue at the shops.