I was watching myself run the errands the other morning and thinking, you know to the casual observer this stuff might seem totally weird or even exotic, and yet to us it’s normal life as we know it…
Spring has arrived here in San Francisco. How do I know? Well, for starters, last week the temperature was eight degrees in the middle of the day, dropping to three at bedtime. This week, our car thermometer was registering thirty four and a half by the afternoon. Our house is littered with cast-off layers of clothing which we can’t imagine ourselves ever wearing again. Sleep is periodically disturbed by the drone of passing mosquitoes bringing with them the dual certainties that putting the light on is a waste of time since you’ll never find the thing, and in the morning you’ll have a new selection of bites. And the hens have started laying again. We don’t have hens (yet; I have threatened a couple of times), but my family from the hamlet have a selection which freely roam the smallholding, so I received a sack of eggs as a present this week. Far more than we could possibly get through even if we did start living on omelettes, so I parcelled most of them up, and my first errand of the day was to cycle around the city and deliver egg-packets to a few folk.
My second errand was to go to the cleaning shop. These are little places, often a garage or front room in someone’s house, lined with sturdy shelves, upon which sit a selection of barrels. You bring your own bottles, and your friendly cleaning-shop-keeper sticks a funnel in the top and refills your coke bottle with bleach, fabric softener or toilet cleaner to suit your needs. Hence the lurid yellow is floor cleaner, and the lurid pink is washing up liquid;
My first reaction to this system was predictably European public information campaign on the dangers of putting brightly coloured poison into fizzy drink containers. Ironically, it’s now I have a kid that I find I’ve softened my stance. Why? Because even if my cleaning fluids were in boringly opaque brown bottles labelled poison in seven European languages including Braille, personally I would still keep them well out of his reach and teach him not to eat or drink anything he finds lying around without asking permission first.
So the only real difference I can see is that the cleaning shops provide employment for local people, and save a mountain of plastic from being made into landfill. Actually it makes me wonder a bit whether we Europeans haven’t abdicated responsibility for bringing our own kids up by trying to make it everyone else’s problem to keep them safe, but anyway, moving swiftly on before the hate-mail arrives. So then there was just time to do some faffing around on the internet trying to prepare some stuff for Scouts, before collecting Joni, inventing a quick lunch out of leftover chicken, chick-peas, rice and chips… add a couple of onions, and give thanks to the folk who gave us curry powder to bring back with us, it covers a multitude of
sins leftovers. And next thing we knew we were off out to the hamlet bringing kiddo and his mum back to San Francisco with us (no eggs today!) As for those hens, at the moment we’re watching The Good Life on DVD, so if I threatened Martin with buying a pig, he might even decide that he’s got off lightly if I showed up with a few hens instead.