According to the Westcoast website we had to present ourselves between four and five o’clock at the holiday homes office to collect the key from Doreen. Determined to arrive on time for once we left home aiming to get there at half four, come hell or high water. On the way, Doreen rang to say that she was going to a social in Mullingar in aid of breast cancer awareness and the key would be under the mat.
We arrived at five. Opening the car doors released a wave of stale McDonalds- scented air, a few ketchup smeared happy meal boxes, half empty water bottles, jackets rolled into pillows and a sweaty, exhausted family. We ran up the little path, opened the door and breathed a sigh of relief. Celebrating both that the key was where it should be and that it worked. I walked in and wondered the same thing I think every time I enter a holiday home. Is this what it’s like having a cleaning lady? It didn’t take long for the freshly mopped tiles to be littered with our stuff but it was still a lovely feeling to be living in a place that had been cleaned by someone else. The bendy forks didn’t matter. The knives that wouldn’t cut butter didn’t matter. I had even already prepared myself not to think too hard about the pillows when I went to sleep. (How many heads had lain there? Could germs permeate a pillowcase?) I was on holiday! Sitting up on the bed I could see sky, sea and little else. Bliss.
I wondered was Doreen still on the road or was she putting on her make-up when we texted to let her know that the tap in the kitchen wasn’t working. She sent back a message ending in a sad face. “Is it the cold one? I only fixed it last week! L” which disarmed us a bit. She was sad for us? She was upset about the tap? She was coming to fix it and when she did it would be with a downturned mouth? My husband wanted not to be taken advantage of because we were Dublin Jackeens. I wanted not to look fussy and annoying because we were Dublin Jackeens. We wondered if there was kind but firm face? That said we were tolerant but nonetheless needed a cold tap in the kitchen. Or a stony we-expect-this-to-be-fixed-immediately face? Well, there is neither. And as the sun was setting and we were by the sea, it seemed like a good time to let it go, put the phone in a drawer and head down to the pier and watch the locals teenagers jump into the cold water.
Someone called Joe dropped in the next day to “have a look as a favour to Doreen.” He asked us where we were from and fiddled at the sink for a few minutes and then left agreeing that it wasn’t working all right.
Doreen dropped in the day after that (the social went well) and with arms roughly the width of a bolster, turned the tap and told me if I lifted it at the same time as turning, it worked. “A man wouldn’t think of that” she said “they’re not like you and me.” Then she noticed there was clean dishes on the draining board and asked why I hadn’t used the dishwasher. When I told her I hadn’t bought any dishwasher tablets yet she bounded out to her car to drive home and get me a few from her own house. I was at the swings when she came back, “slowing” her Toyota Corolla to a mere twenty mph to throw me a few tablets and shout “These will keep you going! Tis a busman’s holiday for you if you wash up!”
The next time I saw her was on our last morning and she came to pick up the keys. I was walking out to the car when I noticed an elderly woman calling to me over a wall. “Hello!” she shouted “Have you seen my husband? He was cutting the hedges!” I told her I hadn’t and Doreen, who was cleaning the house, stuck her head out the window and said that she hadn’t either. The woman saw her and said “Excuse me! Are you calling me a tinker? I’ll have you know I’m a qualified nurse!” Doreen, both a big lady and a fast mover, was out of the house in seconds, gunning for a fight. “Do you have a problem over there?” she asked in a voice that had me headed towards the car. Then a penny dropped and I wondered if there was a nursing home nearby. I thought the woman may be a wanderer. “Ah..” said Doreen “Alzheimer’s. My own mother went the same way”. “My Mum too” I said, and she put her ginormous arms around me and gave me a hug which almost but didn’t knock me over.
As she careered off in the Corolla to alert the nursing home of the situation, the lady over the wall shouted “Hello! Have you seen my husband? He was cutting the hedges!”