Friday, December 1, 2017


Since I am semi transient nowadays, or as I prefer to put it, peripatetic, I am keen on ways of avoiding paying rent. This is how to manage without having to live in my car. I mean I love my dear Fenriz Car, and I half live in him anyway, but I do like a roof over my head and a shower.

So I have taken to house sitting. I do this for an agency, and while I don't get paid, I do get to stay in some very nice houses, and look after some wonderful animals.

The first time I did it, I envisaged writing scathing blog entries about the class war. I envisaged snooty humans and snootier pets. Unfortunately for literature, I really liked the family I house sat for and I adored their dog.

The cats, however, well, the cats. They were two Birmans, very beautiful and aloof, and they looked so similar I could not tell which was which at first. For the first twelve hours, I saw them only one at a time. I checked on them, found one, and was missing the other. I checked again, found what seemed like the second one, but may have been the first one again in a different place. I ended up going from room to room, in this huge beautiful old house, trying to catch them close enough together so I could be sure they were both present and correct. I became convinced they were gaslighting me. I began to panic. I checked again. One cat. Again. One cat. Night fell. Still one cat - or were they taking it in turns? Had I lost a cat? Someone's expensive furbaby? And so I ran screaming into the night... and as I was led away by kind people, I looked up at the lit window and damn my eyes if they weren't high fiving each other's paws and lifting glasses of champagne. It was then I realised why so many house sitters never returned...

After a while I became the Mary Poppins of house sitting. I learned how to pack minimally, how to have a house clean and sheets fresh the minute the owners walk back in, and how to use only my own stuff in someone else's house. I learned I dislike porcelain butler's sinks and I really appreciate anything easy to clean. There are principles - you leave it better than you found it, you don't use the owners' food, and you take such good care of the animals that when their owners return the animals look up at them and shrug and go 'meh'. I specialise in writing witty and informative emails to the house owners, and sending photos of their pets doing cute things. So far I have had good reviews.

As for the animals, after the terrifying Birmans, who did settle down after that night, I looked after wild birds, Pit Bull crosses who weren't allowed inside, a Devon Rex cat who wasn't allowed outside, some very aerial but quite stupid Weimeraners, and others. The Devon Rex specialised in life threatening neck massages in the middle of the night (Oh no! I'm sure that was my carotid!). She shed white hair everywhere; don't wear black they said. And they were right. The Weimeraners were obsessed with cats and would wildly jump at anywhere a cat had once been, or might be, or even spin about on their leads trying to get to cats that really were there, or stare at them until they didn't go away. The Pit Bull crosses I would race across the yard to the door, because then they would block my entrance and jump on me mercilessly as I grappled with the door handle. I always lost the race.

I can get away with house sitting because I still appear respectable, as a gentlewoman in reduced circumstances. Nobody asks my story. I interview well. I am well and truly Police checked (for every job I go for!). And I get good reviews because I take it seriously; I treat it like a job.

I wonder about Mary Poppins. No really I do. Where did she come from? Where does she go next? Does she have a family? She doesn't have a back story, although she clearly has knowledge of a world outside the household's ken. She is a function, a mathematical symbol, a cipher. I am too. I arrive, engaging and helpful, and I leave. Where do I go? Who knows where people like me go?

There are lots of ways of living nowadays, for those of us who are interstitial creatures. Soon I may not be able to live this way, moving on and off the heights, alone but connected to place, drawing the thread of my life across the city, pinning it at points on my mind map, drawing it out again. But for now I continue.
Image result for mary poppins

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