Italians have clean homes, very clean homes. Italian wives and cleaning ladies spend hours ensuring that the home environment is spotless, and hygienic too.
You can buy special steam cleaning devices here, things that ensure that every nook and cranny is almost surgically clean. Not only are their homes clean, but they are also, in general, incredibly tidy. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the expression ‘lived-in’ exists in Italian.
I remember the first time I came across an example of this super, almost obsessive, level of cleanliness. Once, I met a girl who lived outside Milan and she lived with her parents. It was her parent’s flat which left me almost without words. It did not have a lived-in appearance at all. There were no dirty dishes waiting patiently to be washed, no well thumbed magazines waiting to be picked up and flicked through yet another time, even the sofas looked as if they had never ever been sat on. It was a bit like entering one of those show-homes, so beloved of English builders and used to show off just how neat and tidy and homely their products can be.
Only, here in the living museum the majority of homes are maintained in the same meticulous way, often by working mothers with one or two children. The cleaning skills were inherited from their mothers and the continued road-to-cleanliness is additionally promoted by nit-picking mother in laws, who could not face the fact that their darling sons should have to live in anything other than a gleaming, shining, dust and disorder free environment.
Well, along comes yours truly into this paragon of homely perfection. This is a recipe for ructions if ever there was one. You see, if they ever introduced a new Olympic discipline of ‘Absolute untidiness’, I would definitely be a world contender, certainly a record holder and most probably a multiple gold medal winner. Yes, I think it would be true to say that keeping things in order is not one of my strong points.
It’s not really my fault, of course – everyone blames someone or something else for their weaknesses – because I have about 10 zillion things flying about in my head at one given time and this means that CD’s will be strewn happily all over the place, a few well chosen DVD’s will get thrown in just for good measure and the icing on the cake is the number of books and papers I have on the go at any one time. I can’t help myself, it must be a pathological dis-order. I’m not too big on washing up either (that’s if the crockery and cutlery ever make it to somewhere near the kitchen sink), and will gaily sling clothes and abandon shoes all over the place.
Now, you mix this level of disorderliness in with the toys and clobber of a two year old child and you probably understand that I do not fit in too well with the emphasis on surgical hygiene which exists here. My long suffering other half goes on at me all the time for leaving this and that out of place, or worse still in the wrong place, or worst case scenario on top of several other things which should have been put away several decades away.
I have improved, a little. I do now make an attempt to put things in their original places (as a result of being subjected to severe tongue lashings, – which finally cause me to do something, if only to avoid yet another lashing), where they will stay until I decide that having them is no-less than essential to my continued well being, usually as a result of discovering that I should not have put the thing away in the first place, because, for some obscure reason I needed it.
To compound my little, OK, rather big problem, when I put things ‘away’, I often sling one thing on top of another, partly due to the fact that I don’t have the millions of cupboards which I really do need to give some impression of organisation.
Once upon a time I lived on my own and you can imagine the resulting chaos. Not a pretty sight.
Anyway, the moral of this little story is that should you ever find yourself staying with Italians, you should at least try to give the impression that you are tidy and hygienic. Use, or pretend to use the bidet and they will be mightily impressed.
If you ever happen to marry an Italian, well, be prepared. Italian men will expect their home to be perfect, whereas Italian women will not appreciate someone who goes around ensuring that everything is out of place.
I know a bit about situation two, I do. But then not everyone is Olympically untidy. Ho hum.