Kids, cars and chores

cleaning gear Yesterday was a day of new experiences. The first of these was doing housework. Ok, so I’ve done housework before. But a year living out of a tent really reduces the amount of housework you get used to doing, as all you need to do is turn the thing upside down from time to time and you are pretty much done. This approach is less applicable to a brick and mortar based dwelling.

The house I am currently living in (more on that here) has a rota based cleaning system, whereby every week one of the seven housemates cleans all the publicly used areas. Yesterday was my turn, as my better half had decided I could fill in for her while she was out earning some money.

There are a variety of options to take when housecleaning. The “surface tidy”, where you clean everything visible and hope no-one moves anything for a while. The “shuffle”, where you move everything around so it looks like a lot of effort has gone into it. As it was I went, rather surprisingly to me most of all, for the “nuke the site from orbit” approach, and spent six hours cleaning the place. I think the housemates now believe I have serious OCD about cleanliness, and I admit, perhaps cleaning and then lining up every single spice bottle on the spice shelf with the label front and centre may have been a step too far. Still the house, which wasn’t really dirty to being with, is certainly clean now. Even if the party planned for tonight will probably ruin all that.

keep rightAnother new experience I had yesterday was driving a manual car on the wrong side of the  road. I have previously driven on the wrong side of the road whilst travelling in America, in one of those hilariously large tank like creations they call SUV’s, but that was an automatic, so was a little less scary. Admittedly, that was my first time driving an automatic, and I’m pretty sure that I terrified the hire car man by demanding of him how it worked, before pulling out into the San Francisco rush hour traffic, but at least I didn’t waste too much time trying to change gear by opening the door.

Instead of a hire car man, Vera was my victim, sitting patiently in the passenger seat as I attempted to convey us from point A to point B safely. It was weirdly like learning to drive all over again, the amount of concentration required to keep the car on the right bit of road, and changing gear with the wrong hand, not to mention all these cars coming at me on the wrong side of the road, was fairly taxing. Still, we got to our destination fairly safely. The whole purpose of the driving mission was to prepare me for a solo mission, as I was supposed to be picking up another car, but as the current tenant of said car had recently filled it’s usually petrol based tank with diesel, it wasn’t in a hurry to go anywhere, so the practice was in vain.

The final part of yesterdays new experiences involved Sri Lankan food and eating etiquette. But wait, you cry out. I promised kids in the title. I did. They were there too, although I can hardly claim kids to be a new experience for me. The culmination of the driving was the cottage owned by Vera’s grandparents, lovingly stuck in a sixties time warp. Staying here for a couple of weeks had been Vera’s godmother, and by some complex familial relationship, a Sri Lankan lady and her three children, ages 3, 7 and 9.

Regular followers will know that I am not generally brilliant with kids. I am not against the whole idea, but we usually don’t get on so well. There are exceptions to this rule. When travelling in Oz for example, I met some kids of a friend who were actually a joy to be around. One of them spent some time explaining his toy tank to me. He pointed out that it was the only tank in the world that could go underwater. I was hugely impressed by this youngsters knowledge of tanks, and asked him how it achieved this feat. He looked at me rather seriously, and explained that it was because it was a toy.

This is usually how it goes, and yesterday was no exception. My problems of not being able to speak German, (nor Tamil) meant that the girls clearly assumed I was fairly simple. I was carefully fed tic tacs. A three year old spent some time trying to learn my name, repeatedly asking in German what my name was. After a while of me sitting and staring in wild incomprehension, she said very slowly and clearly in German, that her name was Judy, and then pointed at me. Comprehension dawned. I managed to say my own name. Melon was presented to me as a reward for overcoming this clearly  challenging task.

Luckily, not being able to converse in German was not a huge barrier to acceptance. I was solemnly told to be quiet when a butterfly landed nearby, not, I hasten to add, so that we could revere it’s beauty, but rather so that a fly swat could be retrieved in order to squish it. I can report that a gentle cough prompted the butterfly on it’s way before death could be rained down. I was presented with a book of fairy tales to read aloud, which clearly caused issues, what with it being all in German. Pity was once again taken on me, the book was taken from my hands, and the story explained to me using the pictures. What I did learn from this experience is that if you want to rapidly progress in German, pitying seven year olds and a fairy tale book are a pretty good way to go about it. Assuming your future linguistic requirements involve ginger bread houses and witches.

Finally, after all this excitement, it was time for dinner, which was a traditional Sri Lankan affair. As well as the food being excellent, it turned out that eating with your hands was the way to go. As a result, Sri Lanka has now been firmly propelled into my list of places I must visit. Because making decisions about future trips based on a lack of eating utensils is how i like to roll. Yes. That is all for today. Tonight the annual house party is being held, which will no doubt involve beer, frolics and fun, of a Germanic nature. I expect I will report on that soon…

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