Saturday dawned bright and clear, an auspicious omen, or so I took it be, as I breakfasted on a pot of Assam tea and toast with Dundee marmalade, all followed by a bowl of St. Bruno. The reason for my rather fortifying breakfast – in this case 'fortifying' being applied with a rather personal meaning drawn from the application of this term to any bowl that is rather heavy with what pipe smokers bestow with the soubriquet of 'vitamin N' – was that I was coming to the resolution of a minor issue which had progressed from a mere niggle to what was, now, rather irksome to me and which, therefore, demanded that action be taken.
The genesis of this issue had come to me over the course of several weeks whereat, during my daily engagement with the seemingly inescapable chore of 'dust and polish' as I thought of it, my pre-emptive strike against what could ultimately otherwise result in the necessity of a 'deep clean' – such a grandiose term which means nothing more than doing a thorough job of the cleaning – I felt there had to be a better solution to my admittedly slight domestic duties.
Indeed, whilst my fastidiousness was decidedly at a non-clinical place on the spectrum which ran from messy to obsessive compulsive disorder to Lady Macbeth, but still, I considered my time could and certainly should be better employed upon other matters. Moreover, I felt that, distracted as I was by the necessity of keeping my home clean and tidy, though there were many things which I could be doing, many things which I had vaguely promised myself that I would do in my retirement, a retirement that I had not anticipated would be quite prematurely thrust upon me, these various ideas remained unfocused, refusing to coalesce, existing, rather, in a state of potentia which I felt to be wholly unacceptable.
It was, I felt, that morning, fuelled by St. Bruno, caffeine, and toast with marmalade, time to take action, if not to realise these almost subconsciously felt urges to do something meaningful with my time, then at least to release that time back into my possession rather than that of messers Sheen and Dyson.
Retiring to my office wherein my computer resided, I pressed the requisite buttons to waken the beast and duly entered a search into Google (who else?) for a cleaning service nearby. I automatically ignored those 'promoted' and otherwise elevated search results at the top of the list, as well as those with reviews were of the most sickeningly gushing character, considering both to be a thoroughly unreliable reflection upon the competitive commodification of so much of modern life.
It was as I scrolled down to third page of results – yes, some of us do progress past the first page, not necessarily satisfied with the need for instant gratification which drives much that passes for thought and analysis on the internet – that I found an advert which caught my eye.
They were, they claimed, a service providing persons to come to your home and clean it for you in equally the same manner as various other companies and individuals, but in their particular case the 'hook' which they intended would result in a contract with them rather than one of their competitors was that, depending upon your inclination, the cleaning would be performed either by a young man in speedos, a young woman in a bikini, or, for an extra though not burdensome consideration, this same young person sans any kind of clothing whatsoever.
Clicking through from the search result to the company website, I was greeted with a professional 'home' page which linked through to various others giving full details of the work undertaken, namely household cleaning and household cleaning only, as nothing outwith the interior of the home such as, they listed as an example, garden tidying, was permissible, the company being duly cautious of Scottish morals and laws regarding public nudity which remain Puritanical, confused, and contradictory. The site also, of course, contained a veritable though not worringly overwhelming selection of the ubiquitous testimonials which it is thought nobody nowadays can take any action without. As I read several of these I was struck by the thought that they had more than a slight smack of authenticity to them, some even going so far as not being wholly complementary of the cleaning done although there were no complaints as to the cleaners themselves. Not being entirely gullible, I did for a moment consider the possibility that these testimonials might have been written by someone in the company offices with a flair for vernacular and colloquial phraseology, but ultimately I dismissed that line of conjecture as without either provability, and as not something which was worth the worry over when there was a much more simple solution to hand – book a trial.
My cynicism about the enterprise was finally punctured when I clicked through to the galleries and saw that, instead of a selection of stock images taken from some online site selling those tedious generic enticements which might be adapted to a wealth of uses, this site's images were, in fact, well taken photographs of a variety of women – I had eschewed the gallery of male cleaners – seemingly working away industriously in what could only be 'real' homes rather than an advertising executive's ideas thereof. The women featured extended in their ages from late teens to early thirties, though the page warned that the women working for them changed quite often, presumably due to the objections of their partners, and hence it was not possible to guarantee that any of the cleaners employed would be one of those featured, though it was also claimed, in a rather pre-feminist or post-feminist manner I thought, that such women as this company was able to send would be of similar physical beauty. To a one, I remarked to myself, all the young women featured were incredibly adept at positioning themselves and their cleaning aids in such a way that in the photographs included on the site there was neither nipple nor areolae nor a hint of a pubic hair – or a shaven quim – anywhere to be seen. This was not a site for what I amused myself by imagining might be called 'domestic porn'. Tangentially, these images, in their own way, reminded me of Seonaid and the 'candids' or out-takes she had shared with me, further prompting me to muse over the question of how many other photographs were taken but discarded for displaying rather more of a cleaner's charms than the somewhat cautious site designer was prepared to make use of, a somewhat ironic stance to take given the pitch of the company, namely naked attractive cleaners.
Finally, in order to ensure that there was no mistake as to what was and what was not on offer, it was made quite clear by the website that the service was only and exclusively an adult domestic cleaning service. Any attempts at harassing the cleaners would result in the immediate termination of the cleaning contract. Interestingly, it was claimed that both female and also male cleaners were 'equipped with personal alarms' – hidden where, I shuddered to imagine – such that, in the case of a surfeit of hormones on behalf of a client, the cleaner would trigger their alarm, thereby causing both noise and also alerting the company that assistance was required. Assistance, it seemed and according to the photograph on the warnings page, was a very large gentleman who clearly spent a deal of his life in the gymnasium and whom, the website was keen to point out, was highly qualified in martial arts the names of which I had to search for before understanding that, in terms of interpersonal conflict, this gentleman would swiftly and rather damagingly be the victor.
I sat back a moment and looked at the screen.
Their prices, whilst obviously not as cheap as their more conventional counterparts, were not unrealistic or unaffordable. I could, for not more than I was charging one of my students for an hour of my time, employ some young woman to come into my home and undertake the more onerous aspects of the weekly clean, all whilst wearing a bikini. Or, perhaps, I might dip into my own income and opt for her not to be wearing her bikini at all.
Now that I was freed from the yoke of being an employee of the university, I had no 'name' to worry about, and equally I had no contractual clauses concerning any actions which might be interpreted in such a way as to 'bring the university into disrepute' to otherwise restrict my actions and inclinations.
Perhaps, I hedged, I should engage their services for a trial, a one hour session to decide if having my cleaning performed by a young woman wearing very little – or even nothing at all! – was sufficient recompense for the undoubted expenditure and the uncertain standard of her cleaning.
.... There is more of this story ...