My father worked for multi-national companies and as a consequence was frequently away on overseas business trips. Sometimes my mother was able to travel with him so we would be left in the care of hired help. I don’t know where mum got them from, probably out of the paper, but they were all odd and a few of them are not easily forgotten.
One of the hired help was Mrs Reddy but we called her ‘Ever-Ready’ after the battery. She came when I was about eight and Em would have been a year younger. I think she minded us for three weeks but it seemed like three months. She was an old crabby woman who was convinced we were plotting and scheming behind her back and lying awake at night thinking up acts of naughtiness. She was also lazy and while we were happy to make our beds and hang up our bath towels and put our clothes away, she expected a more significant contribution.
One night after dinner when Em and I were dressed in our nighties and about to go to bed, she came into the TV room and told us we had to go and wash the kitchen floor. She marched us into the kitchen and left us there closing the door behind her as she headed towards our seats in front of the TV.
The kitchen was quite a large room with a dining area attached. It had been recently renovated and was up-to-the-minute with tiny chocolate brown tiles on the walls, bright orange laminex bench tops, dark brown cupboards and a very modern contraption called a dishwasher. The floor was covered in textured chocolate brown and orange lino.
Em and I stood there looking at the floor and wondering how you would clean it. I knew you had to put the dark-stained timber bar stools upside down on the orange bench so we did that and then we knew nothing more except that water was involved. We went into the laundry and filled two large buckets with water, then came back into the kitchen and asked each other what we should be doing with the water.
Em had no idea but I was sure I knew. I said, ‘I think you just pour it all over the floor then wipe it with some cloths or something’. So we upturned the buckets and the kitchen floor turned into a shallow pond. Our floor length nighties were getting wet so we took them off leaving ourselves stark naked. We found some cleaning cloths then got down on the floor and started slipping and sliding all over the place. It was like being in an enormous pool and we were adding more water and laughing and giggling and having the time of our lives until water started flowing into the TV room. That’s when all the fun ended.
Mrs Ever-Ready marched into the kitchen and was horrified at the nudity and the underwater kitchen. ‘What have you done?’ she screamed, ‘Get you clothes back on’. We were stunned. She assumed what we had done was entirely premeditated and she took a wooden spoon out of the drawer and smacked us and sent us to bed. We were quite confused as we were sure we were doing a good job with the cleaning but perhaps we used a bit too much water and surely it was better to wash the floor in the nude than get our nighties wet.
It was a relief when our parents returned and she was shown the door.
I didn’t know how to wash a floor but I did know how to make hokey pokey. This recipe has been adapted from the Edmonds Cookery Book. It’s incredibly easy to make, only requires three ingredients, can be made inexpensively and in a flash. It’s excellent served with ice cream, fruit or with coffee after at a dinner party. Best made in non-humid conditions!
Degree of Difficulty: 1/5
Cost: ‘Cheap as Chips’
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 tbspns golden syrup
- 2 tspns baking soda
In a large saucepan over medium heat combine sugar and golden syrup. Stir constantly and bring to the boil. When the mixture boils reduce heat to minimum and simmer for five minutes stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and add baking soda. Stir vigorously (the mixture will rise) then pour into a greased loaf tin. Allow to cool and set, then chop into bite sized pieces.
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