AIDA AUSTIN: My sister's new house - A UFO called ‘Domestos’

My London sister has just moved into a new apartment with her girlfriend of two years. My mother is thrilled that my sister “is now finally settled with a partner who is not only nice and wholesome but also understands about things like expensive storage solutions, cleaning services and Pledge”.

It goes without saying we are all thrilled, me in particular: where once I only had one hi-tech, high-spec lesbian to write about, now I have two.

My sister’s new apartment is in the same complex as her old one, which she is now renting out to my nephew Fergus and his girlfriend Liv.

Fergus and Liv are 23, lovely, and vegan. But this doesn’t mean they won’t eat toast in bed and get marmalade on my sister’s carpet. Or know about Pledge. Family opinion is undivided on this rental-arrangement: we must just all cross our fingers tightly.

My sister has been sending pictures of her refurbishments over family Whatsapp as and when they happened. Her carpenter Matic featured in some of these photos. As a family, we are rooting for Matic; we hope for his sake he’s as skilled at clearing up after himself as he is with a biscuit-joint.

Anyway, I am in London and the refurbishments are nearly complete. I am staying with my sister and girlfriend for a couple of nights before heading down to stay with my oldest friend Vanessa. My mother has advised me that when my sister gives me the guided tour, I am to take particular note of the ergonomic layout, and the extra bedroom.

I haven’t been told exactly how enthusiastic about refurbishments I must be but I am aiming for very, very, very. This means permanent smiling and nodding, maybe a bit of clapping, but no jumping up and down and definitely no weeping. Weeping would go down OK with my Sligo sister but not my London or Devon ones.

My sister greets me in time-honoured tradition: by giving me a huge hug and saying, “Shoes off. No, not in a ******* minute, now.”

After this, I get the tour.

First, we look at a wall in the hall. It has two blank panels on it.

“Well,” she says, “what do you think?”

I’m not sure how to apply “very, very, very” to a wall with two blank panels on it.

“What am I supposed to be looking at?” I say.

She presses the panels and they sort of bounce open. Inside, is everything. The only thing missing is a robot butler.

I think this is what is meant by “expensive storage solution”.

I know how to apply very, very, very to this.

“OH MY GOD,” I shout, “it’s like Goldie Hawn’s shoe cupboard in Overboard. Matic is like Kurt Russell! HE’S A GENIUS!!!”

In the kitchen, I am very very very enthusiastic about the shower-nozzle on the mixer tap. The same goes for the Bose speaker, which is longer than me and I give a little clap on the back balcony. This is for the London landmark view, not for the fake grass, which is a step too far for a gardener like me.

After the tour, I am put to sit on a new velvet chaise-lounge from Habitat; I am astonished that I am allowed to sit on it without holding my sister’s little hand-held Dyson vacuum at the same time.

She hands me wine in a long-stemmed glass and watches me with her beady eye. I watch my wine glass with mine.

My oldest friend Vanessa calls me, while I am sitting on the chaise-lounge. I am due down there tomorrow. Vanessa and my sister know each other — and each other’s houses – well.

Vanessa’s house is like an Uzbek bazaar.

I put Vanessa on loudspeaker.

“So what’s the new apartment like?” she says.

“A UFO,” I say, “with very strict rules. A UFO called ‘Domestos’.”

“Same as her other one, then,” Vanessa says.

“Shut up the both of you,” my sister says.

“Bit bigger,” I say, “same feeling, you know — slightly unreal, hovering above the earth and not quite able to connect with it.”

“Oh,” Vanessa says, “well this might help you reconnect with it. I ought to let you know before you come that I heard scratching noises behind the piano last night.”

“Please don’t tell me you’ve got mice again,” my sister says.

Vanessa says, “I gave the piano a good kick. I’ve heard nothing since.”

“Excellent plan of action,” my sister says, “a good kick will have seen them off.”

“That’s what I thought,” says Vanessa.

“You must remember to pass that one onto Rentokil,” my sister says, “in case they haven’t heard of it.”


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