The two Rosella families fighting over a nesting hole in the big elm that graces the end of the Maldon Museum signal that Spring has arrived, and that getting on with raising a family is a serious business. Fortunately, most of us do not have to go through a similar event. But their scrapping reminds me there is something I need to do.
Spring-cleaning has been a practice followed by many cultures, some for religious reasons and others – like ours – simply a practice, which marks the end of the winter, that time when the cold weather is locked out and the warmth from fires and the accompanying smoke permeate every part of the home.
Spring brings the first warm days and allows us to open up the windows and doors and let in fresh air to blow away the stale airs of winter. Once this would have included cooking smells as well as the smells of wood or peat or coal or oil burnt through the colder months for warmth. Human odors and pet smells could also be cleared out; especially noticeable where there were large families in small dwellings. Early spring days also meant that insects – flies and wasps and mosquitos – were not yet up and about.
This year’s ‘shake out’ really got me going. Uncharacteristically, I put everything else aside. But I did enlist some help.
Bob Dylan helped me with the bathroom. There is something enlightening about scrubbing the terrazzo shower to ‘I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more’ and ‘A Hard Rains A-gonna Fall’. Neil Young got me through the kitchen and the lounge, especially with ‘Old Man’ and of course ‘A Man Needs a Maid’.
The bedroom was supposed to be the easy bit. There wasn’t a fridge to clean or even a toilet bowl to scrub. I’d get Aretha Franklin to help out – you know – ‘I Say a Little Prayer for You’ and stuff. Easy listening.
Everything started well and I figured I’d be done within minutes. That was until I decided to reduce the two plastic boxes full of photos, letters, notebooks, and addresses on scraps of paper, theatre tickets – personal memories actually – at the bottom of the wardrobe, to just one box. Mistake!
Aretha gave up. Fischer Z (go Google) kicked in with ‘Perfect Day’ … “you came for a day and stayed for a week” and ‘So long’ … “couldn’t believe you had gone”. Time passed and the reminders and the memories began to stack up. In desperation I fled to the cd collection. The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, k.d. lang, The Bee Gees, Mozart, J.S.Bach, and then … there she was, looking back at me … the odd one out.
Susan Boyle’s album ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ – oldies like ‘Cry Me a River’, ‘Daydream Believer’ and ‘Amazing Grace’ – kept me company through the rest of the emotional storm.
Laugh if you like, but please remember, you just can’t tell where spring-cleaning might take you. It might be more than just the house that needs a dose of fresh air.
(Note: For those of you who haven’t seen it, Susan Boyle’s first moment of fame can be seen on Youtube.com: Britain’s Got Talent 2009. It’s quite memorable.)
Country Notebook articles are written by Richard Lee for his monthly newspaper column of the same name.