Do we have to dress up? Julian asked in anticipation of our first home visit from the social worker.
At two forty I collapsed after what seemed like 48 hours of solid cleaning. A month of lime dust, hemp fragments and spring spider weavings that had accumulated during my stay in Paris had to be wiped or dismantled. Splats of organic ‘enduit’ had to be shaved off the glass door and two hard workers’ body-grime scrubbed from the shower tray. It is not easy to clean a house that is in a state of constant renovation and often it does not seem worth it but we had to show that our home was at least sanitary.
'Don't worry about the work you're doing on the house' The social worker had said on the phone. 'It's the 'esprit' we are interested in.'
Well, I thought, spirit is not what's lacking.
‘I have to admit I did clean the house’ said a friend who adopted from Nepal. ‘But of course you don’t want the smell of bleach to be lingering.’
I had bought a new product to clean floors that had a pretty picture of lavender on the front. Lavatory more like, I thought as I inhaled it’s ‘aroma’. I threw the African cover over the bed, bashed the dust out of the Nepalese blanket that covers the sofa, and the Moroccan cushion covers, shook and smoothed the Double Ikat cloth from Bali and dusted the Dogon horse and rider sculpture from Mali, proud that I had brought almost all these things back in backpacks. On the window-sill there happened to be a book on walking in Scotland, one on tadelakt, a dvd of ‘Fauteuils d’Orchestre’, several issues of ‘Côté Sud’ and a cd of the Bach partitas. That would do, I thought, to show that we were the perfect candidates for an International adoption.
I looked up at the walls, now covered in hemp and ready to be finished in sand and lime. They looked like weetabix and custard. A sheath of grey concrete with wormy traces of under-floor heating awaited the rosy terra cotta tiles that would be laid the next day. The cats, having been picturesquely snuggled all morning on the bed, ran towards the cat flap . I tried to persuade them to stay, and failed.
‘Do you think we will pass?’ Julian said, appearing in his traditional dress of paint-splattered T-shirt and 501’s, armed with a portrait of me and a still life to put back on the nude walls. We made tea in our favourite potter’s cups, and in the absence of flowers, placed a delicate white bowl of peaches with peaked caps and leafy apricots on the table.
The social worker, it turned out, was lovely. She used to play the violin, and since her involvement in adoption in Africa, regularly had musicians from Burkina Faso staying in her house giving concerts. She spoke of an accordianist at the bottom of Rue Mouffetard in Paris who gave out song sheets and got the whole community singing. She clearly loved music and, of course, children. I liked her tremendously, but I guess that isn’t the point.
When she left I developed a temperature and went to bed.
‘Do you think she liked us?’ Julian asked, as he decantered a bottle of 94 Cuvée Flornce.