Thursday, 14 June 2012


OK. Here’s the problem. Every time I come back from a holiday, the house stinks.

The porch and hallway smell like The Elephant House in high summer.

The rest of the house also smells like The Elephant House in high summer, except one of the elephants has VAG ROT, and all the other elephants have died.

The situation has gotten so bad I dread coming back.

“Please god let the cats not have shit everywhere”, I whisper to my partner on the journey home from our most recent holiday. “I don’t think I can take it.”

“Just relax”, says my partner. `’If they have, I’ll clear it up straightaway.”

My partner doesn’t know me. If he did, he wouldn’t bandy around inflammatory words like ‘relax’. Conversely, I know him well enough to know that the very first thing he will do on arriving home will be to scroll through the list of recorded programmes on the Sky Plus Planner. He would do this even if he needed to pick the zapper out of a buzzing, twitching heap of cat shit as big as Ayers Rock.

I shouldn’t say anything but I do.

“I don’t mind clearing up cat shit”, I say. “I just hate the smell - the fact that I’ve just come back from holiday and as soon as I walk into my own home - it’s all totally over. It’s like a giant metaphor for real life.”

“Fucksakes”, says my partner, quite loudly now. “Can’t you ever just relax?”  

"L.A.N.G.U.A.G.E”, I say. The kids are watching a DVD in the back of the car.

We arrive home half an hour later. The front door seems to be hovering in a cloud of queer neon-green gases. I walk into the porch; hold my breath. When I finally realize I can’t smell anything, I’m so relieved I could cry. My partner turns on the TV. He sighs contentedly. He prepares his corner of the sofa.

But it is as if the movement he makes disrupts something - makes something come alive - because all of a sudden there IS a smell: a wretched, abominable, fucking pong. It creeps up my nose and down my throat like some decomposing worm.  It is Eau de Hell, no less.

“Oh my god”, I say. I can’t believe it. It’s totally foul. Worse than usual!”  

My partner ignores me. He wanders off to the kitchen to make a snack.

“I’m making toast and hummus”, he says. “D’you want some?”

“Don’t touch the hummus”, I shriek. “It’s probably that.” 

I imagine the hummus, bulging with gases; potatoes liquefying in the vegetable tray; an array of burst, weeping things. As I put the kids to bed, a number of other explanations are running through my head, primarily: 

  • Toxic Mould
  • Poltergeist 
  • Mice    
  •  And last but definitely not least, The Underfloor Void

Back down-stairs, my partner comes into the lounge, carrying more toast.

“I don’t want you to take this the wrong way or anything”, he says. “But it says on my phone that you’re, um, that you’ve got PMT.”

I am outraged and impressed in equal measure. I can feel bits of my face going in opposite directions.

“I found this app called My Days”, he continues. “You put your dates in and it warns you about, you know, ha ha, incoming storms.”

“What the fuck has PMT got to do with the fact that the house stinks?” I say.

I don’t let on how weirdly flattered I am by his decision to download a phone app about MY menstrual cycle.

“You know what you get like”, is all he says.

He sits down in the same position on the sofa. Rearranges a cushion. And then farts. Within seconds, I get a hit of the same bestial pong as before.

“Oh.My.God”, I say. “Have you got some kind of exploding anal abscess or what?!!!”

He pulls out his phone, scrolls over something on his touch screen.

“Just two more days of it’, he sighs, and eats his toast.