I’ve never pretended I was a great housekeeper. Not once. Not even in the early days of being a Mum, when it was expected that you would pop out a baby and graduate cum laude from the school of Housekeeping Fanaticism.
But, there are times when even my meagre standards appear inconceivable.
As you know, dear reader, we’ve been renting this amazing house for over a year now (woohoo longest time we’ve been in a place since we returned to NZ) and we are pretty blessed to have it. It has a gorgeous view out over the beach and a pretty cottage garden. It was one of the original beach cottages in Bucklands Beach, I can even make out its form on early maps. There it is the little white cottage with the blue tin roof high on the hill overlooking little Bucks.
It wasn’t a flash house then. It still isn’t. It has a simplicity that Kiwi houses often have. It’s not the house but rather the view and the position on the hill that is spectacular. My Englishman calls them barns, because of the tin roofs, but I like the unpretentious windows clanging in their frames when a Sou’westerly blows, and the tired cork floor and the funny twists and turns of the hallway that comes from having verandahs built into rooms.
There is of course that other massive benefit of renting an older, tired house – your housekeeping doesn’t need to be quite as pointed. Cue big sigh of relief.
Last year was busy, full of the detritus of living. Life is busy. It took all my energy to keep afloat and concentrate on the key things – feeding, clothing us, being the heart of the home – that I let the garden restore itself to a natural order and the house itself soon followed to its natural state. Chaos.
The little pool we have behind the house has been a problem. All through winter we’ve had issues trying to keep the pool clean. The old filter is stuffed and the owners reluctant to fix it. I have no doubt this house will become a building site when our lease expires at the end of April, and the little wooden cottage with soaked in memories of generations of Aucklanders, will fall to dust. I hadn’t even looked at the pool for about a month as the weather had been dodgy and work had been busy and then one day renewed with Spring enthusiasm I went to turn the filter on and ‘open’ the pool for summer.
It was green.
I expected that.
It was also a tadpole water park.
This, I had not expected.
So then the issue became not so much turning the filter on and dosing the pool, but what to do with the wildlife that was enjoying the pool? My Englishman, the kind-hearted Engineer, was determined that we shouldn’t commit tadpole genocide. Instead he started to scoop the tadpoles out with an enthusiasm I thought he’d reserved for building Remote Control Airplanes and studiously turning our lounge room into an engineering workshop. Buckets, plastic tubs, even my new mixing bowl was called into service as emergency shelter for the amphibian masses.
There were, so many tadpoles.
Tirelessly he worked, to scoop them out before I turned up with the liquid poison that would sanitise pool water for swimming for people – you know for which purpose the pool was previously used. I should point out that we already have a pond for frogs and tadpoles, in fact we have three, but the Englishman didn’t want the tadpoles to become part of the carp’s food chain. We struggled on – the Englishman frantically digging tadpoles out of the pool handful by handful, me working at my desk in a state of ‘hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil’ denial.
Then a funny thing happened. I’d been so hard at work inside and hadn’t noticed activity in the garden until all of a sudden there was a knock on the door. My Englishman works from home so it isn’t unusual to have people knocking on the door at all hours. All sorts of people. You’d be surprised how universal it is to have a broken mobile phone. I loped to answer it, and standing there was a woman holding ice cream containers.
“Here for the tadpoles.”
My answer was a face shaped like a question mark. And then my Englishman appeared, full of mission like a breeder off to show his thoroughbreds. He didn’t seem to feel any remorse for the drop in our housekeeping standards. Rather, he seemed proud of the boost we’ve singlehandedly given to the native frog population.
For the next few days we had a constant stream of natural looking nature loving folks lining up at our front door clasping containers of all shapes and sizes. If the neighbours hadn’t thought before we were the local ‘tinny’ house they will do now.
I’m grateful to be able to report that the pool has since been sanitised and is now safe for human use. And the tadpoles? Well I can confirm that at least one happy lot have turned into frogs – or so I was told gleefully at the local supermarket just after Christmas, and the rest are sitting in huge plastic tubs on our front porch.
Good thing we don’t have any pretensions of class or Good Housekeeping, isn’t it!