For 42 years we lived in a large Edwardian house in Maidenhead. During that time we reared five children and, when they were small, had help from a succession of au pairs from various countries. We also had a number of different women (one at a time) to help with the cleaning.

Both the au pairs and the cleaning ladies were remarkable for their diversity. The au pairs were fat, thin, cheerful, morose, flirtatious, willing and bolshie, whilst the cleaning ladies ranged between being prickly, clumsy, slapdash, lazy, verbose and, alas all too rarely, efficient.

One cleaning lady – I have selectively forgotten her name, but let’s call her Mrs Mop – was ostensibly willing but unfortunately not up to the job.  When asked to do something she’d always say, ‘Oh yes’ – except that when she said ‘Oh yes’ it sounded like ‘Aw yus’.  After a few weeks my wife became exasperated, not with the aw yusses, but with Mrs Mop’s inability to clean anything well enough.  Windows were smeary, surfaces dusty, bathrooms mucky, the kitchen untidy and plates chipped.  She was hopeless.

So, after patient attempts to get Mrs Mop to understand what was expected and to raise her standards, my wife gave her a week’s notice. When told her services were no longer required, Mrs Mop showed no emotion; she just said ‘Aw yus’.

A couple of weeks after her departure, my wife placed an advert for a new cleaning lady in the Maidenhead Advertiser.  On the day the newspaper appeared the phone rang and I answered the call.  I said, ‘Peter Honey’.  There was a short silence and a familiar voice said ‘Aw yus’ and the phone went dead.

A narrow escape for both parties.        

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