Sunday, 30 July 2017
This year, my sister in law and I decided to do something about our idle day dreaming of going into business together. We've spent I don't know how many evenings talking about what we could do over the years, and always drawn a blank. She is a nurse working in primary care, feeling much the same as I did when I was counselling in GP practice; stressed, over worked and under paid. We both wanted to earn a decent amount of money that would put coffers into the pot, but we didn't want to be working all the hours that God sends. I don't want to go back to work full time while Olly is still at primary school, and she wanted to cut her working hours back, now that her children have flown the nest.
We aren't at all crafty. We didn't want to open some kind of shop. We didn't have enough room to upcycle furniture. She's not interested in cooking or baking. I'm not interested in professional car booting. And then we hit upon it. Something that we are both very good at doing indeed. Something that requires an attention to detail, and a love of bleach. We could clean for a living! We've both helped out friends in the holiday trade before, but we felt that we could market ourselves as women of a certain age who know exactly what's required for a ship shape and shiny house. Elbow grease, a beady eye for dust bunnies and an extendable feather duster.
So we sent out feelers, and lucked out with a property management company who were looking for just the kind of thing that we were offering. Apparently good old fashioned cleaning is a dying art. Who knew? St Ives depends for the most part on the visitors that swell our numbers during the summer months. But we are also a year round holiday destination. It costs a lot of money to stay here, and there are some very swanky places that you can stay in. The company that were interested in our services provide swanky places for swanky people. They are also in desperate need of a good quality housekeeping service.
And so this month, Ship Shape Cleaning Services was born. And boy have we hit the ground running! It's been a full on month of learning how design and operate spreadsheets, prepare invoices, engage with laundry companies, florists, wholesalers, designing logos, tallying figures and recording expenses, never mind the actual cleaning itself. Most of our work is on a Friday and Saturday, with some mid week work too. Olly has been enrolled into a Friday holiday club for the summer holidays, something that I agonised over. I felt so guilty about it. But I get the feeling he's going to love it; a lot of his school friends will be there so he won't be all alone. Alf will pick him up for me, and also look after him on a Saturday afternoon, once Marc has gone sailing.
I've just finished processing the invoice for this month. We've assigned ourselves roles within our partnership, and I'm the one dealing with the money (the irony of a D at Maths O Level is not lost on me right now). I've had to get my remedial head around all sorts of vexing things; tax, expenses, insurance and so on. But it's been good for me too, because I've stepped right outside my comfort zone and tackled stuff that I would never have had the nerve to do even a year ago. I keep seeking out Marc, going over the same set of questions, and he patiently tells me the same set of answers.
Of course the cleaning itself is not a doddle. The pair of us work really hard. We've set very high standards for ourselves, and we pride ourselves on a job well done. Although it's early days, I think that we work well as a team. We clean the bigger properties together, and the smaller ones separately. I tend to clean the bathrooms, while Karen attends to the kitchens. We strip and change the beds together. We also check each others work, so that nothing goes unnoticed (like the piece of jigsaw and single oven chip that I missed under a sofa the other week. Oops). Karen has an obsession with smears, and I get very excited about the aesthetic of the bed linen.
And although we work hard, we also have lots of free time. Karen confesses that she isn't used to it yet, but I relish it because it's entirely guilt free. I've worked hard, and I can use the rest of my time to do all the things I do at home, and other fun stuff as well. It a win/win situation as far as I'm concerned. I'm also happy not to have a full time job, because my voluntary role at the Infant school has stepped up a gear too. I'm now a parent governor, and from September will have overall responsibility of the Infant school library. The governor role has been fascinating, and I've already been involved with some important decision making. The library will be such a wonderful place to be responsible for. I cannot wait to start lunch time reading sessions, poetry writing, introducing the author and all sorts of other activities for the children.
The above photos were taken this morning, in and around the part of St Ives that was once home to locals, but is now mostly holiday cottages and apartments. Traditionally I avoid it during the summer months, but now it's where I earn my bread and butter. I feel a little more connected to it, as I wander these streets with the tools of my trade in a sturdy hessian bag. I'm noticing all those little quirks and quaints that make my home town such a celebrated place to visit. Of course my mood may be quite different at the end of the summer, but right now I'm rather loving being part of the hustle and bustle of town.
How about yourselves? Are you all well?