I’ve always rather loved the term ‘critical mass’. In physics, as I’m quite sure you all knew already, it refers to the minimum amount of fissile material needed to maintain a nuclear chain reaction.

And in science, so in my life.

I got home from holiday last Monday, in the wee hours, and despite the word ‘holiday’ meaning ‘doing work, somewhere else’, I awoke to the gloom of a damp November morning, with my deadlines still looming, my work pile still teetering, and – there is no more polite way of putting this – the realisation that serious s**t needed doing round the house.

Pretty much everything in my domestic life is currently on the slide. I know this to be true, because I see the word ‘Christmas’ and I actually come out in hives.

It started with the washing, as it so often does. That particularly dispiriting washing husbandry malfunction that sees a seasonal bulge throw the whole thing out of kilter. I washed furiously, frenetically, for the best part of Monday – because that’s what you do, right? You get home from holiday and you sort it all out. But because I’d failed to sort the stuff I’d hung up just before we left for holiday, there was no room in the airing cupboard (which is where I dry my washing), which meant the pile on the landing (which is where I stack my ironing) grew so big that the whole lot went whumping over the bannister, down to the hall floor, taking out a table lamp en route.

So I regrouped. Cleared the glass up. Relocated the ironing pile. To the room off the kitchen, which is where I do my ironing, and where, as luck would have it, one of my filthy, sodden cats tramped across (and around and all over) said pile, which, as luck would again have it, was topped off (why, of course) with the (white) bedding that I’d only just stripped off the bed, on account of the same filthy, sodden (sodding) cat having made merry there for the duration of our holiday. (You know that phrase? No point in shutting the gate when the horse has bolted? Yup.)

Back upstairs (bed unmade, landing steaming, like stew) I still faced the result of my extreme laundry moment and the second realisation – that I was all out of hangers, on account of my being TOO BUSY just lately to practice my ‘best-practice wardrobe rationalization’ and replace all my summer clothes with my neatly stored winter clothes, preferring instead to ‘dip into’ the winter clothes storage, with the result that my wardrobe was stuffed full to bursting, with not a single hanger to be found. (Bar those daft ones they always put on knickers.)

Hey ho, I thought. I am at least good at draping. So I draped stuff all over, up to and including the odd sconce and newel post, bringing the relative humidity throughout the whole house to ‘sub-tropical not-at-all-paradise’.

Upon which, being menopausal, I went out. Hell, I had to, because, as has been revealed by mathematics, there is a reliable inverse post-vacation correlation between the quantity of washing and the amount of food in the house. So I shopped. I bought all sorts. I stocked up like a prepper. Sudden apocalypse? Hey, no flies on me.

Well, at least till I got home and it soon became apparent that I had absolutely no space in my freezer. Well, I say ‘soon’. What I meant was it EVENTUALLY became apparent, when I went to get an ice-cube, some sixteen hours later, to find the entire contents (up to and including a late 2014 homemade massaman curry) covered in that other kind of less-useful ice – the kind that gets conjured by wicked witches in fairytales and whose message (over and above ‘I shall kick ass in this kingdom’) means JEEZ, WILL YOU SORT YOUR BLOODY FREEZER OUT?

So I did that, and as I write, I am sitting in a flooded kitchen, with half a dozen bulging compost bags, that won’t fit in my caddy, and which will doubtless by tonight be weeping all over the garage floor.

So we might eat the curry. Except we didn’t like the curry. And the bedding’s still filthy. And the ironing’s not started. And I’ve words to be written and deadlines to meet. And I’m sitting here wondering – why on earth do they call it ‘husbandry’?

Clearly what I need is a wife.

Originally published in the Western Mail Magazine, 14/11/15


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