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  • Writer's pictureErol Mehmet

The water lady and the coronavirus through the eyes of a window cleaner

Why am I writing this? Because I've seen some things over the last six months.

I was really lucky to be able to do both of my jobs during the pandemic lockdown - clean windows and write for different companies.

It was mainly blocks of flats that I cleaned because with the pure water pole work there is no need to touch a building or go near anyone. Just me, my van, one hundred litres of pure water and my pole. It's great thinking time and I'm a better writer for it. The two occupations complement each other nicely.

I got to see things and made some interesting observations during that time of uncertainty and loss for many people.

It’s an instinct that when you are standing in front of a window for some length of time that you would look through it. However, for some bizarre reason, in general, and 'normally', window cleaners just learn the skill of cleaning the glass but not looking through it. It’s like your brain doesn’t allow you to look because you know it’s not right to look into someone’s private world.

I clean some flats that have mainly elderly residents and sometimes I feel I 'should' look through the window to check they are ok and haven’t fallen over but, to be honest, most of them stand at the window waving at me or offering me a cup of tea when they see me. It's so lovely, they make me smile. They tell me I'm the happiest window cleaner they've ever seen but I think it's because I squint in the sun a lot.

This brings me to my first observation…

One particular day where I was working, the older generation appeared almost fearless whilst the coronavirus weaved it’s way into people’s lives and caused so much devastation. I wasn’t sure whether to admire them for their bravery or tell them to batten down the hatches, create a forcefield and lay low for six months. I found myself wanting to shout “get down, sit down, stay low”. The funniest moment was when two of the younger residents, a husband and wife, sat in their camping chairs in the beautiful gated grounds sharing a bottle of Prosecco watching me work. Listening to their music and having the most wonderful time sharing the odd bit of conversation with me, almost oblivious to the panic on the outside where toilet rolls were few and far between.

The subject of toilet rolls brings me to my next observation.

Due to the lockdown, so many people were working from their home at makeshift desks in their bedrooms or at desks in their front rooms with two computer screens, wearing headsets and sitting in their pyjamas. As I mentioned 'I don’t normally look' in the windows but it became impossible when I would be faced with (always white) toilet roll piled high next to the window or someone literally sitting at their window, point-blank range in front of me whilst I desperately tried not to make eye contact. Most of the desk workers weren’t friendly, understandably, a large percentage of them were trying to work with young children annoying them.

This leads me on to the main point of this article, the children.

Being a parent, an ex-teaching assistant and a fun-loving adult I naturally respond to children trying to communicate with me. Pre the coronavirus it would only be school holidays when the children of that very nosey age would be a bit of a distraction when I was cleaning their windows. However, lockdown went on for a long time so I saw a lot of children. I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors or how every child is feeling but I was blown away by the resilience of the children I saw. I've seen so many rainbows and beautifully drawn NHS posters that have faded in the sun over time.

We should be proud of our little ones even though they drive us crazy sometimes.

It would be understandable for a young child to be stressed out during lockdown, not being able to go out into the fresh air unless they had a garden, not being able to go to school and be with their friends in a structured environment and not being able to talk to and cuddle family. Literally every child I saw looking out of windows, waving at me, smearing the insides of the glass with a soggy biscuit or spraying the juice out of their bottle just smiled and laughed. I would see them come out of the building to get some fresh air and they would be happy it was so incredible. When I was a young child I had so much freedom, never restricted by health or the environment, how things have changed and from what I've seen the young ones of today have adapted so well to this pandemic.

When I speak to people who have kids, they all seem to be 'getting on with it', keeping busy, doing and making things. I’m so impressed with how the children of today appear to have coped with a situation that is so alien to all of us.

Let's wrap this up now.

I’m going to wrap this up for now with my final observation. Whilst I am impressed with the resilience I’m equally impressed by the thought processes of even the youngest children now with regards to human contact and the virus.

I clean the windows at a block of flats where three small children live with their mum. They and their mother are always in their pyjamas no matter what time of day I go there. There is a gated area around the flat for the children to play in and before lockdown, I would clean the windows on the top floors whilst they ran underneath the falling water. I last cleaned their flats six months ago, this time when I entered the gated area, the oldest child who looks about seven grabbed her much younger sisters, shouted “it’s the water lady” ran indoors and slammed the door shut.

They instantly knew not to come near me even though they like me. I’m not sure if that’s really smart or really sad. I presume their mother had educated them and explained about the 'bad germ' that is making people really poorly and they shouldn't go near people that aren't in their bubble. Gosh, how do you explain that to a child without it sounding like a bizarre movie like 'Bird Cage'. That's a bit dramatic but you will get the drift if you know the movie.

So I will go back to that particular block of flats in six months with the hope that they will no longer be in pyjamas, hopefully at school and if not I can sprinkle them with water like the good old days.

Stay safe with sparkling windows.

Best wishes, Rachel

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