What dogs do mean is more housework. And it was a house that seemed to take a lot of cleaning anyway. It was a light, airy house with high ceilings and, as you can see from the photo, big sash windows, which let in a lot of draughts and therefore dust. We had open fires in the winter and that created dust too of course. And the dogs trod in dust and shed hair and if you didn’t clean up every day there were dustbunnies drifting across the floor. We had no fitted carpets downstairs (except in the kitchen, as it happens) and the parquet floors had to be polished daily. In dry weather, you might get away with going around with a dry mop first to get rid of the dust and hairs, then go over with an electric polisher, but dogs (and people) coming in with wet feet left pale patches on the floor and you had to start by spreading Mansion House liquid polish with a mop, then polish it off with the electric machine. That would be done a couple of times a week, even in dry weather. Dusting was done most days and was thorough. Every piece of silver (which was all kept out, none in cupboards) and every piece of china had to be dusted, picked up and the furniture it was sitting on dusted. It was all taken off the dresser or cabinet regularly so that the furniture itself was polished. The ceilings and picture rails were dusted with a long-handled brush and the rugs were hoovered daily. The silver was polished every week – sometimes you could get away with just ‘rubbing it up’ but often you had to get out the Goddard’s silver polish, especially if there had been foggy weather. Brass was polished slightly less frequently, but at least once a month.
Obviously, kitchen and bathroom cleaning was done every day and bedrooms regularly, probably rather less than downstairs because they were used less so didn’t get so dusty. Beds were changed every week and sheets, pillowcases and towels were sent to the laundry. My mother and I used to wonder, in later years, at our complaints at having to unpack the laundry basket every week, check off each item and fill it again, making a list as we went. Once we did the laundry ourselves, we appreciated what a luxury it had been. Johnny called in every week to pick up one basket and deliver the previous week’s, ditto the dry cleaning. Everything else, my mother hand-washed. The window cleaner called once a week and I’ve a feeling that, once in a while, he was also asked to clean the windows inside, but I may be wrong there.
Oh, by the way, while Wink was here last week I asked her the purpose of the little room on the left of the stairs in the passageway to the guest bedroom and the upstairs loo. It was the ironing room, apparently, an ironing board was kept set up there permanently. She’s right of course, I’d forgotten.
As I’ve said before, the dogs used to be let in and out of the tall narrow side windows in the drawing room and dining room. However, if it was raining they were allowed out but not in. So they’d come to the window, scratch at the glass and you’d stand and point to the back door (which was way round the side of the house and they’d run off. If you were busy for a minute and didn’t want to go – maybe a vital moment in a tv programme, then it wouldn’t be long before one of the dogs would reappear looking impatient and you’d have to go to let them in straight away and apologise. Of course, it took a few minutes to dry them with towels before they could come through to the rest of the house.
The dogs’ food was cooked freshly for years, my mother bought cheap cuts of meat and it was boiled up with vegetables, a few days’ supply at a time, and we cut it up daily and biscuit was added along with some of the gravy. They especially liked liver, but it was too rich for them to have more than a little in with the rest. They also had household scraps. We’d never not had dogs, so we didn’t notice the extra work, and when there were a lot of them it took a bit more time, but not much. We walked them at least once a day, but only because they enjoyed it, they got plenty of exercise in the garden. Susie and I used to go off together often, sneaking out unobserved by the other dogs. I remember it as being me who did a lot of the dog walking, certainly by the time I was ten or so. We didn’t use poop scoops but they weren’t often necessary anyway – the dogs preferred to ‘go’ unobserved in the garden. Certainly, no male dog would deign to squat in front of any of us.