Those that know me well will be sick with dread after reading that. Houseminding. Horror. I have a history with houseminding. A dark, violent history. A history filled with shame, blame, guilt and tears.
Something happens to me when I am left alone in possession of property. I become possessed by the devil; a domestic bitch who leaves dirty footprints and a trail of broken appliances in her wake. I don’t mind the house, so much as contaminate it.
Fortunately my current hosts and friends, Derek and Inés, are in far off Australia where where the internet cannot reach, or so they tell me. They will not worry because they will not know, unless of course they call, as they have done, but then I will do as I never ever do normally. I will lie. And later I will plead temporary insanity.
I suppose I could blame my parents for leaving me alone to “mind the house” when I was 15 and somewhat irresponsible. I took being left alone as an open invitation to drive the family wagon to school, or to not go school, to invite friends over for parties, and/or stay out all night for several nights in a row. As a result of the last activity I lost my father’s beloved siamese cat in the first 48 hours of their inaugural post-retirement 6 week European adventure. Thus, I spent the next 6 weeks having to lie, and tell them she was ‘justfine’ every time they rang, or else ruin their holiday. I also crashed the family car, but it was just the first time of many for that and it’s really the cat running away that scarred me psychologically.
I’ve now come to regard losing the pet cat as de rigeur for any houseminding episode. And it’s not all about me. Running away is the well-bred cat’s logical reaction to being abandoned by its owner. Perfectly natural. My sister’s cat always runs away whenever she goes on holidays. Actually all she does is hide inside the house (for several days), until she is satisfied with the level of response and the subsequent angst of both the houseminder and her owner (if the houseminder is stupid enough to have told her about it. I never do. Very unprofessional.).
Also par for the course is the breaking of appliances. My record was set at a dear friend’s place when in one two-week period I broke the dishwasher and coffee machine, melted the juice extracter and the food processor exploded, causing minor injuries. I took photos of the wounds I sustained and the shrapnel from the machine which was splattered in every corner of the kitchen and used the photos to emotionally blackmail the owner. Once I had their sympathy, I then told them about the other appliances. That is professional modus operandus.
My real strengths lie in destroying large-scale travelling souvenirs or family heirlooms. That Morrocan rug you bought on your honeymoon? Well, it’s a long story. I’m not sure what the bottle of turps was doing in the lounge room anyway, or why I thought an entire box of laundry detergent should be employed in the clean-up. As for the lampshade that was the single memento from your childhood summers at granny’s… Sorry about that. That’s as bad as it gets, isn’t it? It’s perfectly understandable if I’m never allowed in the house ever again. And that the 20 year friendship would be finished does seem justified.
So, how’s my form this time around? On the first day here I tripped the power (no biggie in general, but in a new house the culprit can be a bit mysterious) requiring discussions with neighbours, and then unplugging everything… etc etc. The washing machine and kettle weren’t a problem on their own, but when you add the pie warmer and the bubble-bath frother… blah blah blah… The fun really started when I was preparing lunch. I’d just added the oil to the pan when the doorbell rang. Neighbour with stray cat: in a turn-up for the books, instead of losing a cat I was adopting one. But Wookie had other ideas about the new kitten and in the ruckus I shut the front door – locking myself out. With a hot pan of oil on the stove. Located another neighbour who showed us the way in, and I only had to break down one interior door to stop the kitchen fire from spreading throughout the house. No worries. Only one ruined pan. (Probably belonging Great-Auntie Amalia, may she rest in peace).
What really got my heart going was the oven exploding when I tried to light it, and the force of the blast throwing me across the kitchen floor in a cloud of fluffy insulation.
Things have calmed down somewhat since then, with only three trips to the vet and a great deal of vomit, piss, blood, shit and frothing-at-the-mouth mopping up, (but none of my own so far). I’ve got locking-myself-out down to a manageable once-daily routine.
This morning’s pre-breakfast rampage could just be called ‘exercise’. Wookie took a liking to next-door’s sheep and chased them around the paddock for half an hour. One unruly little one thought it would be funny to shove its head through the fence and get stuck, so I had to carry it home didn’t I? And now there’s the fence mending to do this afternoon. Luckily it’s the first time and the neighbours still think it’s funny. That won’t last.
I have a sneaking suspicion that my reputation preceded me because Derek and Inés seem very well prepared. I’m sure I saw a rice-cooker and an electric wok here on previous visits, and now they are nowhere to be found. I’ve tried to use the dishwasher. But it was already like that, surely. I can’t break it just by looking at it, can I? So there’s nothing to worry about. Nothing to worry about, yet.
Ahhh… so much for a quiet life in the country…