On swans

A swan, as you will know, floats around gracefully looking wonderful. So wonderful in fact, there are various ballets about them. Nobody did a ballet called ‘Duck Pond’ or ‘Goose field’. Elegance, effortlessness, beauty, grace.

You only have to look beneath the surface though and you see they are flapping like mental under there. Not very graceful at all. All that work just to give them the appearance of grace. All that effort just to hold them up and keep them in the same spot, or floating along looking serene.

Many women I know are like this. If you aren’t like this, you are either spoiled or a princess or Paris Hilton. In fact, I’m sure Paris Hilton has her flappy feet moments, not to malign her. Even Posh Spice, mortal enemy #1 – you just know she has flappy feet underneath that. Big flappy feet. That gives me some comfort. If you are a woman and you DON’T sympathise with this post, I despise you. You are obviously a spoiled princess. Get off my blog.

Take me. Steve, this morning, sees me happily ensconced in my messy corner with my laptop and a coffee. I’ve brushed my teeth and my hair (a rarity for both to occur!) and I look serene, like I had a good night’s sleep and I’m just checking up on the Telegraph. I’m in relatively clean clothes, and Tilly, all clean and scrubbed, is sitting next to me. I don’t look very Carrie Bradshaw, but I look more Carrie Bradshaw today than Grandma Clampett. By 8:15, I had managed to get into ‘swan’ position.

At 7:30, it was a very different story. In fact, I need to take you back to 03:10 yesterday morning. I have been mainly flapping with occasional swan moments since then. Well, if I were going right back to the beginning, it’d start with the day I first started work, but that would be a very long blog. This just repeats the latest flapping and swan incident.

03:10 yesterday morning… Cesar, the dog from up the road who comes down here because a) he can and b) it’s nicer here had arrived the night before. His owner (who apparently was ‘born early’ – whatever that means in French parlance – I suspect ‘dropped on head at birth’) had turned up the night before and told me not to take Cesar back to his parents’ house, as they were away, but to look after him if he turned up. This is what you get for going on and on about how he might cause an accident on the road and there might be insurance claims. This was how I got through to him. When I said ‘your dog might be killed,’ he said ‘I can always get another one’ so animal welfare = not his strong point. So, Cesar had turned up. Normally, I walk him home because he frightens the cat but tonight, Steve got a dog bed and blanket and put it in the porch. Cesar is not allowed in the house as he pisses everywhere. Each morning, as he wends his way down here, he stops off at M Richon’s house and if the gate is open, he goes in and pisses in their house.

Anyway, at 03:10, Fox (our ginger cat) had decided to come back. Cesar barked like mental. Tilly barked like mental. I decided I could get no peace so I got out of bed, put Cesar on the lead and walked him back to his home. He ran off when we got there and ambled in the corn field. He was enjoying himself, so I left it at that. Luckily, the moon was out or else I’d have been in the pitch black.

At 3:20, I got back and Tilly had pissed on the dining room floor, which I only re-waxed a couple of weeks ago. I got out the specialist floor cleaner, cleaned and then left it to dry. Naughty Tilly.

By 3:40, I went out to call Fox and check if he was alright. No sign nor sound of my little gingery angel.

By 3:50, I got back into bed. I read a book for a bit, hoping I’d go back to sleep. I didn’t.

By 4:30 I gave in and got up. I decided it was a good time to mop the kitchen floor. No men or beasts getting underfoot. I swept and mopped times 1. Then I swept the front room whilst that was drying. Then I planned a lesson. I mopped the kitchen floor again because I don’t like it being mopped with dirty water.

That’s pretty much how the day unfolded. Washing up. Hanging washing out. Mopping floors. Cleaning windows.

I have a theory. It relates to The Elves and The Shoemaker. You know, that fairy tale about a shoemaker who goes downstairs in the morning to see that ‘elves’ have miraculously made a load of shoes and cleaned up after themselves. My theory is this: the shoemaker – man. The story-writer – man. They both missed the main point. There were no elves. Elves do not exist. Women, however, exist. The story really should have been called ‘The Women and The Shoemaker’ since it was quite obviously women’s work afoot.

Consider the evidence: the shoemaker goes downstairs and by some miracle the shoes are finished with beautiful, tiny stitches. There isn’t a woman still reading this that hasn’t got up before the menfolk and done something, and we’re well-known for our neat and tidy craftsmanship. Like in this house, the menfolk come out of their pits and don’t even think how it even got so clean and tidy. It just is. And if they had to think about it, they’d probably be thinking of elves too.

Remember, the woman had been given a heads up by the shoemaker, and probably decided to play a trick on him. He told her he was going to wait up. I bet any money she paid some dwarfs to sit and work in there just to maintain her mystique (and to have a bit of a laugh at her husband’s expense, since it hadn’t even crossed his tiny mind that his wife might be the one making the shoes) And it’s the wife who makes them the clothes in reward for their efforts. If indeed that took place. She’s grateful on her useless husband’s behalf.

So, here’s to all the swan women who do all the housework, all the cleaning, the gardening and work too, and bring up the kids. Now we’re being told off by reports telling us we shouldn’t have tried to have it all, but I don’t remember signing up to say I’d be the one doing everything.

I’d like to put a quote in here from a harried friend who stropped and shouted at her husband. She had loads of housework to do. In her words, the house was a pit. He said ‘it looks okay to me’. And therein lies the problem.

I watched the latest Outnumbered last night and it reminded me that in all comedies, women are the ones who hold it together these days. Mrs Simpson and her four children. Mrs Griffin and her four children. Lois and her many children in Malcolm in the Middle. The Brockmans in Outnumbered are just the latest in a line where harried women try and hold the family together. Outnumbered was more gentle in it’s approach to ‘men as hapless children’ but they still broke a washing machine, ate grey ‘puree’ for tea and you were left in no doubt that the mum is not only the heroine but the glue to this whole family. I don’t know. Maybe it’s our fault as women for doing everything. Maybe if we did less, men would do more. I doubt it. I know that if I don’t do a thing, it won’t get done. In reality, I suggest we do it because we love men so much. We indulge them. Like Peter Pan, when Wendy sews his shadow back on, and he says ‘Oh, the Cleverness of Me!’ – Wendy just says, ‘Of course, I had nothing to do with it…’ because like Wendy we indulge men and their funny little ways.

Now let me stop with my whining. I have lessons to teach, grapes to squash, apples to core and quinces to jellify. I will leave you with these two quotes.

 “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.”

Charlotte Whittam

And the next reputedly from Ginger Rogers when asked about dancing with Fred Astaire.

I did everything he did... just backwards and in high heels

Here’s to being swans. Here’s to fabulous women. I never have been so proud to be a girl. And men, if you’re still with me… buy your ladies some flowers, make them a coffee and clean up the milk spill. Whether they’re wives, sisters, mothers, friends or lovers they do a damn fine job of looking after you.

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