When The Mothership lands in the desert
This week, Hype’s Grumpy Old Raver is prepping her flat for a visit from her mum.
The Mothership is due to land. Which means that 24 hours before her flight from Glasgow touches down in Dubai, it’s time to go into panic mode and launch Operation Clean The Apartment. As probably the only Westerners in Dubai who don’t have a maid, the two flatmates and I could start cleaning the flat earlier – but we’d only need to do it again before her arrival. And it isn’t fun the first time around.
Thing is, we could spend a week’s wage on cleaning products and scrubbing and polishing everything until it shines like a proverbial new pin, but it’s still won’t meet the MS – mum standard.
Forget OCD, my mother suffers from OCC – Obsessive Compulsive Cleaning. It’s been a lifelong affliction. So much so that when I was growing up, I never had any need for an alarm clock. Mother vacuuming around and under my bed every day at 7.30am – even on weekends – made sure of that.
I often went hungry as a child, as she’d whip my dinner plate into the sink, wash it, dry it and pop it back in the cupboard before the third forkful of food had reached my stomach. And back in the Shake n’ Vac days, our living room carpet smelt so floral and fresh it put Interflora to shame.
If you’re from the UK you may remember the TV show How Clean Is Your House? Yup, the old dear looked upon its presenters – Kim and Aggie (above) – as if they were amateurs.
On our first holiday to the US when I was still in primary school, mum didn’t fall in love with the States because of the Grand Canyon or the Golden Gate Bridge, but rather because it was “so clean”. And years later, when I lived in London, I invited her to stay for the weekend and we went on the tourist trip around Buckingham Palace. While hordes of tourists marveled at the stately rooms, lavish furnishings and expensive paintings adorning the walls, I spotted Mother running her fingers along every surface inspecting for dust.
Living in the desert is “no excuse” apparently for having a fine film of dust on our balcony furniture so praise be that she’s never been here during a sandstorm, as she’d be off down Sheikh Zayed Road armed with her chamois to buff up the Burj Khalifa.
The problem is that she doesn’t like sitting in the sun so she can’t just relax by the pool, chilling-out being a somewhat foreign concept for her anyway. So while the flatmates and I are at work, she likes to “potter”. And that little innocuous word strikes fear into my heart. Mum’s idea of pottering is to cook, clean and clean some more.
The upside is that the flatmates and I won’t need to worry about cooking for the duration of her stay, and she’ll leave behind a freezer full of enough homemade Scotch broth to sink a battleship. The downside is coming home after work to an apartment so abused by bleach it makes your eyes sting, and three weeks of calls back to Scotland to enquire where she’s put things.
At 77 now and with more energy than a power station, her obsession has worsened since she retired. Standing at 5ft, she’s not just a neat freak but a tiny tidy tyrant. On her last visit I came home one night, opened the door and discovered she’d pulled out the sofa. Armed with a brush, she called out, “When was the last time you swept behind here? Come and see this!”
“What’s that?” she asked, as I peered down onto a couple of little black dots on the floor.
“Er, two dead flies?”
“No dear, it’s a fly cemetery.”
Despite all this, I love her dearly and am really looking forward to seeing her. And when she goes, at least I’ll be able to say I’ve had two weeks of clean living.