Having houseguests during our years in Africa meant running a lowegrade version of boardinghouse and tourist agency and lonelyhearts club and 24-hour corner surgery – what I don’t know about excising putsi fly larvae from under the skin (or enticing them out with meat) has yet to be discovered. We once sat down and worked out how many overnight stays we’d had in a particular year, and the number was significantly larger than my weight (in pounds). You need a three-course meal for 50 with no pork, a choice of three puddings, and budgeted at 50p per head, to be on the tables within the hour? No problem.
But one thing I never had to do was scrub my toilets. As anyone who has visited Africa knows, domestic staff is almost universal, and even the domestic staff have domestic staff, usually a poor relation who needs help with school fees or seed purchases or building supplies or clothes for the kids or … you get the picture: job creation or slave labour, depending upon how PC you happen to be.
Now, of course, it’s another matter. The only staff I can commandeer are my children, the ones still at home teenagers for whom mounting the stairs with a hoover in hand is akin to climbing the Kilimanjaro barefoot with an underripe mango and a small flask of water as sustenance. Even bribery has very limited efficacy.
So when a good friend rang to say she and her husband would be arriving this evening for a very short stay – a week, for these are old acquaintances from overseas who still reckon in African time – I realised that I’d have have to put away the short story I’d meant to blog about, and actually clean my toilets.
And the graffiti? Those of you familiar with my short story Noise have undoubtedly grasped that I’m rather fond of street art. Which may or may not be identical to toilet art, though a lot of graffiti does appear in public conveniences. Thus, when someone shattered one of our toilet bowls two years ago – don’t ask, that’s a whole other post – we intended to replace it with a pristine and fully functional model in plain white porcelain. We intended … so you imagine you’ve guessed it?
I’m afraid you’re wrong. The graffiti’s there, but only I can see it. And every time I clean the toilet, I change the exhibit.