FRANCIS BRENNAN‘s latest book includes everything you need to know to CREATE A HAPPY (and well-organised) HOME …
When I was a young boy, my mother used to do a spring clean. Do you remember that? The parish priest or some important person would announce that he or she was going to pay a visit and Mum would get started with her cleaning list. After a winter with all of us huddled up inside, and coal fires burning in the grate, the house would have a lovely layer of soot and dust that needed special cleaning. Now, before my mother kills me, the house was never dirty – but it was considered a necessity in those days, to do a once-a-year, really deep clean: rugs would be lifted and taken outdoors to air, and then to have the dust beaten out of them, curtains would be taken down, nets whitened, tablecloths laundered, windows cleaned, and Dad would be sent to clean the gutters. I can’t say that I ever saw the parish priest examining them for signs of dirt, but the point was, the spring clean was part of the yearly ritual of making a home sparkle.
There were weekly and monthly rituals too. I remember the Monday wash, the Friday cleaning of the cooker and so on. Housework in those days was a full-time job, with the wash beginning on Mondays, swishing around in a big tub, before being rinsed and put through the mangle – remember the mangle?! – then hung out to dry in the Irish wind and rain. And, if Mum was ever lucky enough to get a few good drying days, the wash would come back in, be put in the hot press to air, then ironed, then put away in drawers and wardrobes, before the whole cycle would begin again. I’m amazed at how Mum ever managed, running a house with five children in it and a husband who worked 12-hour days. But manage she did, and beautifully.
I’m tempted to think that it must have been much harder for her in ‘the olden days’, but I have since come to rethink that notion. Of course, housework would have been more labour intensive then, with no dishwasher or dryer – unless you count us Brennans, the human dishwashers! – no online grocery ordering, no convenience food; but there would have been that all-important commodity: time. Life wasn’t a constant round of activity, the way it is nowadays, with mums and dads both working, kids out at school or at soccer matches, scouts, music lessons and all that kind of thing. Time nowadays is at a premium, and no person wants to spend his or her precious free time hoovering the skirting boards.
Which is where Mr Brennan’s Guide to Household Management comes in. I’m sure there will be those among you who will wonder what I have to say about housework – sure, you must hardly live at home, Francis, I can hear you say. And those of you who will have seen me wrestling to put on a duvet cover on live television might be a bit sceptical of my knowledge in that department, but running a hotel teaches you a lot about the importance and the pleasures of a tidy, clean place – how warm and welcoming it can feel, how much pleasure it can give you and others. My hotel is my ‘home’, and when I welcome people into it, I want them to feel that they can truly relax, knowing that the silver is polished, the napkins are laundered, the sofas cosy and clean.
Modern life isn’t easy, but with a little bit of help, you can get your own ‘hotel’ spick and span, with the minimum of fuss, so that you have more time for the nice things in life, like relaxation, friends and family.
Good luck and happy homemaking!
Check in next week for the second part in this weekly series from Francis Brennan, on the all-important topic of spring cleaning …
Excerpted from Francis Brennan’s Book of Household Management, €16.99, published by Gill Books, out now.
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