Hermione, sweet light of my life, is not just a believer in spring cleaning. She is also a firm fan of winter cleaning. Of summer cleaning. And of autumn cleaning too. If she were a sailor, then her ship would be impeccably shipshape. If she were a seamstress, then her new pins would be neatest of the neat.
Though she shares the house with a bunch of laggards, she ensures that Medders Manor is fit for inspection, from the gleaming brass of the front door knocker to the dust free ornaments on the mantelpiece. Each thing has its rightful place and her mission is to ensure that this place is where each thing is found, from the hefty sofa in the sitting room to the smallest jar of curry powder in the pantry.
The windows shall be clean and the pot plants shall be watered. Beds shall be made with sheets neatly tucked under mattresses, while floors shall be swept. Stern standards of tidiness are proclaimed and those standards are observed to the letter when she is around to supervise with broom in hand.
The thing is that Hermione is not around at the moment and the broom stands redundant, propped up against the kitchen dresser. She departed for a well-deserved winter break away from the rigours of domestic life 24 hours ago, jetting off to Playa las Cigarillo with her mother and her daughter. She left on this all-female jaunt for a week in the sun with words of encouragement for the menfolk she left behind.
'I don't expect much,' she said to husband and son as she departed for her week away, 'and I know that you will do your best.' Just 24 hours gone, I fear that our best may not be good enough. Just 24 hours gone, the sheen has evaporated from everything in the household. We are already struggling to maintain any semblance of the normality to which we are accustomed when Hermione is in residence.
I had never before thought of the Manor as a living organism, yet it eerily appears to have a life of its own. Or maybe we share the building with poltergeists which dare not work their ghostly mischief whenever the lady of the house is on duty.
I certainly did not leave a bag full of old candles on the stairway though I found myself walking around it this morning. Eldrick insists he is equally unaware as to how it came to be there. We both pass it by whenever we make our way along the stairs. We reason that candles are the sort of thing that just might be on their way up to the attic. On the other hand, they may be destined for disposal the rubbish bin down in the yard.
Up or down, we have no clue and, with no power cuts imminent, it would clearly not be a good idea to shift them into the kitchen where they would be clutter. Just 24 hours gone, and there is already enough clutter in the kitchen. The counter which Hermione leaves perpetually clear for the preparation of meals has been lost beneath a jumble of chopping boards and cereal packets, along with a bicycle chain and set of spanners.
The sink is full of pots left soaking while the fruit in the fruit bowl has overnight become furred with mould and a fresh tea stain on the table cloth looks uncannily like a map of India. At least the table is innocent of dirty plates - we can be categorically sure of this because we know the dirty plates may be found in the sitting room as reminders of a sporting TV dinner. Actually, they are not all that terribly dirty as The Pooch has licked them more or less clean.
The room which was immaculately tridy up to so recently is now covered in dog hair and smelling of runners, the floor strewn with pages from yesterday's newspaper. The television, which has not been turned off since Hermione left, is permanently tuned to a channel specialising in Canadian gridiron football. Best not mention the bathroom. And ditto the bedrooms, come to think of it.
Just 24 hours gone, at least we have plenty of time left to put things right, or at least close to right. My only real fear is that we may have erased some of the precious 'Downton Abbey' archive of recordings in favour of highlights from the epic clash of the Toronto Titans and the Halifax Hurricanes.