(Warning: TMI ahead. And not a good kind of TMI either, oh no.)
I’ve had occasion to comment on the decor of my flat, which I describe as Advanced Bachelor Casual (or, if you’re my mother, it’s “I can’t believe you live with all this junk.”) Well, the time comes when, as a mature and rational individual, one tires of disorder, and it becomes an imperative to impose a sense of structure -
The Plain People of The Straight Dope: Your landlords wrote and told you they were doing a flat inspection, didn’t they?
Nosy gets. Checking the “property is clean and in good order”, on the flimsy and specious pretext that they actually own it. I don’t know what the world’s coming to.
“Ok,” I thought to myself, “rearrange the flat so that it looks like a human being lives here, I can do this, it’s not a problem.” So, I began to sort out the piles of books, and maybe throw out a few things I really didn’t need… Four bin bags full of junk mail, computer printouts, packing slips from Amazon and old shoes later, the bedroom started looking civilised. A few layers down, I found the vacuum cleaner, which speeded things up enormously… underneath it all, the carpet turned out to be a sort of beige colour. I even found a few unimportant documents of minor interest, like my passport and my current MCP certification.
The kitchen was really quite painless; just take the top layer of bottles and cans down to recycling, and wipe down the surfaces thereby exposed. (An innate sense of self-preservation prevents me from letting filth build up where I cook my food.) I’ll admit, though, I felt a modicum of embarrassment down by the bottle bank. “Look,” I wanted to say to passers-by, “this is two years’ worth of accumulated wine and whisky bottles, it’s not like I got through all of this last weekend.” I wanted to say it, but I didn’t actually say it - in my experience, if you do say it, people give you some funny looks.
That was the bedroom and kitchen done. That left… the bathroom. (Cue ominous chords.)
You know who I blame? I blame Tony Curtis and Roger Moore. I grew up with The Persuaders, it told me what the bachelor lifestyle was, during my formative years. It was loose cars and fast women (or maybe the other way around), champagne, sunshine on the Riviera, fisticuffs with generically-foreign-accented baddies. It did not involve cleaning fluids. Tony Curtis and Roger Moore foiled the plots of villains without once resorting to Domestos.
I didn’t use Domestos myself; I used Flash, which is advertised incessantly on TV by chirpy Cockney wide boy Karl Howman: “It does the hard work, so you don’t have to.” I also prepared, over a couple of days, by pouring bottles of generic bleach and limescale remover into the toilet’s slavering maw. Underneath it all, the bowl turned out to be a sort of white colour.
You know something? It’s amazing what you can get used to, if you do it by increments. Like those martial arts types who turn their hands into lethal weapons by gradually shoving them into harder and harder materials… I got used to the state of my bathroom, by going into it every day, and not really noticing it had got just that little bit worse. But, looking at it objectively, from the point of view of cleaning it, I realised why so many visitors had emerged from it green-faced and shaking in the past - and why, on subsequent visits, they’d all displayed truly amazing levels of self-control, in respect of, er, bodily functions.
I started small, with the washbasin. The cleaning fluid made no great impression on the limescale and dubious black streaks. So, I started scrubbing… Eventually, it looked all right; not pristine, but presentable.
I turned to the bath, where soap scum, scale, and (presumably) my own dead skin tissue had been sculpted by water into forms that would delight any geologist. I poured the Flash onto it, and waited, again, for it to do the hard work, so I didn’t have to. Once again, it failed to perform. Karl Howman lied to me! I resolved, then and there, to remind as many people as possible about his early appearance as a futuristic punk in Blake’s Seven. That’ll put paid to his street cred. (Series B, episode 2, Shadow.)
Scrub, scrub, scrub. Entire land masses, possibly with their own ecosystems by now, dwindled and vanished down the plughole. It occurred to me, as I scrubbed away, that I was actually eliminating several landmarks I regularly used to tell me how far to fill the bath up. I shelved that issue until a later date.
Washbasin done. Bath done. That left the walls (respectable, apart from some spots of mould in a corner I couldn’t reach), the outside of the toilet pedestal, and, of course, the floor.
The toilet pedestal was covered in streaks of something, fossilized urine, perhaps? It was a sort of orange-brown in colour, but otherwise looked rather like the stuff that attacked Raquel Welch in Fantastic Voyage. Some areas of the floor had gone the same colour; others had a greyish sludgy covering, to which extraordinary quantities of pubic hair had become attached - surely it couldn’t all be mine? But I don’t know who else would come and shed pubic hair in my bathroom… (I lead such a sheltered life.)
So, I poured the remainder of the Flash out onto the floor (you’re supposed to use it diluted on floors, but I figured that it’d be pretty well adulterated by the time it ate through the layers of muck), drew up my supplies of scourers and cleaning cloths, and began to scrub again. I confess, I felt genuinely depressed at this point, but I quoted Macbeth to myself (“But screw your courage to the sticking place”) and soldiered on. Actually, being high on exertion and the fumes of the cleaning fluids, I found myself rewriting Macbeth as instructions for self-assembly furniture (Screw your courage (A) to the sticking place (B)… Take dagger © with the handle towards your hand…) Silly idea. I put it to one side; I had a bathroom floor to clean.
(Checks TMI warning hasn’t fallen off top of post.)
To get a clear mental picture of all this, there’s one thing you have to bear in mind. I live alone, and therefore I don’t have anyone else’s feelings to consider. So, when I have a long, sweaty, messy job to do, I don’t add to the overall hot and messy factor by wearing clothes to do it. And I’m a fairly big bloke, especially round the waist… so, what you have to imagine is a sweat-slimed nude colossus, beer gut quivering with effort in all directions, pouring imprecations and Flash on a surface which, between the orangey bits, the grey bits, and the pale blue cleaning fluid, is sort of… mottled … in an interesting chemical-spill kind of way. Is that image nicely clear in your mind? Did you want it to be?
Oh, in the end, I finished it. This is an inspiring story, with a moral and everything. (The moral being, the longer you put off doing a nasty job, the nastier it gets.) Eventually, the layers of muck were shredded, scattered and defeated, the WC pedestal shone in purity, the floor was sanitised, the cleaning cloths were reverently laid aside, to be buried in heroes’ graves… actually, burned on heroes’ funeral pyres might be a better move there. It was a vindication of the power of evolution; in the eternal struggle of Man against Slime, Man had triumphed once more.
I rose from my kneeling position, wobbled slightly, and put out a hand to steady myself. My hand found the towel rail, and, for one brief moment, the whole of my weight came down on it. It came out of the wall with a dispiriting scrrunk.
“Bugger,” I said.