Ruth Walker: I wouldn’t want to wake the treasures

Ruth Walker. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Ruth Walker. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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AS WITH so many situations in life, it is not an enormous blow to family equilibrium that prompts my decision to go on strike, but a series of uncountable little things, culminating in one long week of little things, that finally breaks me.

It’s a Saturday. I’ve already worked five long days, days that have included several evening events I’ve had to attend as part of my professional responsibilities. So I’m tired. On this Saturday, I am also required to work so, obviously, I wake up tetchy.

I leave a list of chores for each of my offspring; small jobs that will ensure the Earth continues to orbit the Sun; that the stars continue to shine; ergo, the delicate balance within Walker Towers is maintained. The jobs are thus: empty the bin, wash the dishes, feed the cat, empty the washing machine. Not much to ask, is it? And because feeding the cat is easy, the person emptying the washing machine gets to do that too, with the added bonus that it will make the cat like them more and win them valuable points in the ongoing battle over who the cat loves best. (It’s petty, I know, but we do this thing where one person sits on one sofa, one on another, and we each call the cat; whoever she goes to wins. OK, writing it down here makes it sound even more ridiculous than I feared. Forget I said anything.)

I go to work, I get home late. The dirty dishes are spreading like a nasty case of mould, overflowing from the sink and taking over every available surface in the kitchen. The crumpled bedding is developing a stagnant fragrance in the washing machine. There are half-full mugs of tea in the living room. Crumb-covered plates upstairs. Damp towels on every floor. And a rolled-up bit of paper is burned to a cinder in the gas fire. All the lights are on but no one’s home. We are a real live idiom. Go figure.

But at least the cat’s happy. She’s busy mopping up the detritus that is tumbling from the unemptied kitchen bin.

I am beyond apoplectic. I am so angry there is nothing for it. I must drink wine. After that, I go to bed with just one thought on my mind. Strike. I will calmly but firmly state my case over breakfast. We all share this space we live in; we must share the responsibilities that come with it. From here on in, I do NOTHING.

Somehow, despite my rage, I manage to sleep.

It is Sunday. I wake up to the sun streaming through the shutters. It’s a beautiful morning. A fine drying day, if ever I saw one. So I’m getting a wash on sharpish. While the kettle’s boiling, I do the dishes. And since the sun shows up the streaks on the windows, I might as well give them a scrub while I’m at it.

It’s midday before the children get up and I’ve already done most of the housework (not the hoovering, obviously – I wouldn’t want to wake the treasures from their slumber).

It’s mid-afternoon before I remember I’m supposed to be on strike. I lasted a full nine hours. Eight of which I spent sleeping. It hardly even seems worth mentioning. As you were. Sigh.