Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Seconds

Apart from a brand new kitchen tap that was installed last week to prevent the cupboard underneath from rotting away and contributing to the outdoor pool that is our balcony, our rented accommodation has been largely untouched and unrenovated since it was built in 1970.

Despite this, I've discovered from the occasional chat with other building dwellers that our place is the largest size they have.  Every third floor (second, fifth, eighth and eleventh levels) has one our size that stretches across the entire length and allows pretty decent views of the Saleve and Jura mountains from both sides. "Plus, you have a maids' door," Anne said to me.

A maid's door?

She's right.  Taking care to snap this photo with keys safely in my hand, I'd almost forgotten about our second door.  It's the one on the right - closest to the gorgeous matchy-matchy lift door. Nothing but the best of burnt seventies' brown sugar for our external furnishings.


"And don't forget what was constructed for the housekeeper inside," she said, pointing to the tiny room next to the guest toilet.  This windowless, power point-less room measures 1.5 by 2.5 metres.  


We use it as our indoor storage space. My two nanna carts, LC's and Sapphire's scooters, unused winter quilts, art supplies and a dodgy IKEA desk chair have been shoved there out of the way.  "Well, if you had a live-in housekeeper, that's where she would have to sleep."

No wonder Milly and I see so many nervous and tired-looking Philippino and Malaysian women entering the foyer as we're exiting for Milly's first whizzer of the day at 7:00am.  They all stop and greet Milly, who rushes up to greet them with a wildly wagging tail.  "I miss dogs," one said wistfully the other day. "My kids look after mine in Manila for me."


It seems that these days no-one has live-in domestics; or not that I'd noticed anyway.  Then again, Guillaime upstairs has a cleaner visit every single week day.  Considering that it's just him and his wife in their two bedroom/one bathroom apartment (ours is 3br/2 br), it's a genuine struggle to imagine just what kind of detailed tidying up is required so regularly.  From the hoovering, scraping and clanging sounds overhead, Guillaime's debris keeps her occupied for least three hours.  Is he a messy eater who then defecates on the floor?  Does the always-stunning Mrs G let everything hang out once the front door's closed behind her, grinding dropped blobs of her Chanel Double Perfection Lumiere foundation into the gaps in the parquetry...?   Are they against wardrobes and discard clothes like dead skin cells?  Are dishes frisbees?  If so, they keep pretty quiet when it's not anyone's birthday.....

Our 'Maids' Entry' door has been permanently locked ever since we moved in, and is usually hidden by a rack full of damp washing, a handful of doggy doo bags dangling from the handle and the three designated recycling containers lined up in a row.  Lotto win fantasies see this door get removed forever and a decent pantry installed instead.


If we were the type of people who had a maid, then she'd apparently only be given a key to the side door and this is what she'd be greeted with: laundry and kitchen.  After all, why look at the comfortable bedrooms or living areas (with spectacular views) unless you're in there to spruce, dust and polish?


"Our cleaner is very good," Guilliame once remarked to me as we shared the lift. "Only twenty five francs an hour."  Waiting for the internet to rev up to normal speed and upload these photos, my mathematics-averse brain struggled with a calculation.  That'd be three hours, at 75 francs a day, totalling 375 for the week.  The Aussie dollar and the Swiss franc are pretty close these days, so it was no small biccies he was shelling out for managing a tiny living space.  It's also, it has to be said, a lot more than I charge per hour for my writing gigs.

If you've made it this far, you're probably wondering what the point of this entry is, apart from showing you how hideous our doors, floors and tiled walls are and that it might prove best not to visit Guillaime's place until after the cleaner's worked her magic.

Well, I was walking Milly in the Parc de Trembley this morning when I spied what initially looked like a rather cute scene.  Mum, dressed in a power suit with a sleek leather briefcase slung across her chest, was sharing a ride on a scooter with her toddler.  Bent nearly double, she was gripping the handlebars tight, calling out, "Wheee! Wheeeeee!", using one leg to propel them faster and faster forward.  The child was giggling with glee.  Sweet, right?

For the first few seconds, yes, until their companion was revealed, coming up behind, huffing and puffing to keep up the pace.  Dressed not in workout gear but a rather formal uniform was (presumably) the nanny, forced to run alongside until Mum had reached the enormous UIT building and handed her both the scooter and the child.

The nanny was not giggling with glee, and I sincerely hoped that she was at least paid enough to afford to live in a place of her own.

18 comments:

Plastic Mancunian said...

Bonjour Kath,

375 francs a week???????

And he says "only 25 francs an hour?"

That's an obscene amount of money for a cleaner.

I'm obviously in the wrong career.

:-)

Cheers

PM

wilbo43 said...

I was going to offer to come over for a stint as your nanny, but hesitated when I found out there is no power point in my room for my computer, iPhone and bedside lamp. When finally I found out how people treat their nannies over there, that settled it. I'm staying put!

Andrew said...

I guess a maid would not own much and so would not need much space. I would put in a power point so that she can use a hair dryer in her room. After all, her appearance would reflect on you.

I think I could easily get used to having a maid.

Kath Lockett said...

PlasMan, put it this way: when a PR company contacted me to ask if I'd cover the International luxury watch expo (for buyers and jewellers only, not peasants from the public), they asked my hourly rate. I nominated the one I receive for tutoring students (50 CHF per hour) and they said, "Oh goodness no, that's far too much...." So presumably they found someone much cheaper to spend a day talking to the makers of half-million dollar watches such as Rolex, Longines et al....

Wilbo43, I guess it still surprises me how people seem to assume that paid help are somehow less important. Back in 1991 I had a hellish two weeks as a nanny in London and was utterly shocked then at how the family saw me, but 22 years on, it still occurs.

Andrew, a maid might not own much, but surely you'd set up a room for her with a bookshelf, a big bed and a telly of her own?

River said...

I used to be a cleaner, but gave it up to take the job at Coles. Where I spent a good part of my time.....cleaning! Pfft!
I fell sorry for the poor huffing and puffing nanny. but if she does that every day, she soon won't be huffy and puffy.

Elephant's Child said...

The more things change...
And I am appalled at your early morning vision. Hiss and spit. And I don't like the message it was sending to the child either.

Kath Lockett said...

True, River, the nanny'll get fitter but the fact that she has to seems very unfair. Otherwise she should ask the employer/mother to buy her some decent running shoes and fitness clothes!

Me either, E-Child. They'll do (and expect) exactly the same in a couple of decade's time...

Ann ODyne said...

Genevre newsflash: big auction there any day of Gina Lollobrigidas jewellery.

Maybe the guy with the costly cleaner makes those $cary watche$.

X X

ashleigh said...

Maids are something from a bygone era - well, live-in maids.

But in Asia, its very common, and the size of your maids room is hugely generous compared to what I've seen for the maids quarters in brand new apartments in Singapore (and China).

We might think its a bit odd, having a live-in maid.

I was talking to some people who have lived in those places and they gave the other perspective:

If you are a rich westerner with a well paying job you are EXPECTED to employ a maid. It is seen as your social obligation to provide employment for the less-well-off, and you will be looked down on if you don't.

In the case of the live-in maids, this means they don't have to find and pay for their own accommodation and for all practical purposes, its only for sleeping - the rest of the time they are either cooking, cleaning, or skiving off in your house while you are away :)

I'm not saying any of this is right or wrong, it just is. And in asia, those maids send a lot of remittances home which helps to spread the joy.

It's not how I would like to live (that is, I don't want to share my space with a maid but I would not object to a regular cleaner visiting!), but I can see their point.

Kath Lockett said...

Ashleigh, I'm aware of the culture of maids in Asia and India, but living here is so DAMNED EXPENSIVE it makes my eyes water and I think that a maid is upping the ante. I wander around the place in my five year old target clothes and see endless fur coats, chanel pumps and bentleys.

As for Guilliame, he did look rather shocked when I said that I didn't need his maid's services as "I'm the cleaner in our house."

Ms O-Dyne, unless any of Ms Lollobridiga's jewellery makes it to the flea-market, it might be slightly beyond my price range. Even if I offered a cleaner's rate of 25 CHF to cover the event, I'm sure I'd still be too much for the PR company....

FruitCake said...

It seems I would be an utter failure as a maid. Even thinking quickly is challenge enough, let alone running behind somebody's child like a slave.

Kath Lockett said...

FruitCake, I'd be an utter failure too, because it would be impossible for me to keep my mouth shut and tell them what I think of them!

diane b said...

it is sad that maids/nannies are still seen as second citizens.

Kath Lockett said...

It is indeed, dianeb, especially when they're (sometimes) a huge part of their employers' (and employers' childrens') lives.

Ellena said...

Is it possible that G's cleaning lady charges more because she gives some extra service once a week? I'm thinking along the lines of 'treesome'

Kath Lockett said...

Definitely not, Ellena as G and his wife are never home when she's hard at work cleaning up their debris!

Red Nomad OZ said...

So that colour is the Swiss equivalent of Mission Brown, right? And the future is clear - give up writing, and become a cleaner!!! Of course I'm joking ...

Kath Lockett said...

Yep, Mission brown - with burnt orange floral tiles in the kitchen and lovely brownish-scrolly ones in our bathroom.

....and I'm already a cleaner - just an unpaid one!