Time To Tidy

Allison Hay © lady with duster in hand at Christmas Pic: Shutterstock

Lisa had been stuck in I-can’t-be-bothered mode all year, but now she had a good reason for a clear-out!

“I’m surprised he can get under there,” Ellen muttered, as Sammy the Siamese disappeared under Lisa’s table. “I’ll bet that long tablecloth is hiding loads of junk.”

“It’s none of your business,” Lisa snapped as she peered out of the window. The carol singers were back singing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, trying to impart tidings of comfort and joy.

They were doing a brilliant job, and Lisa wanted to offer them mince pies. But then Ellen turned up and she’d forgotten about the batch in the oven, and now they were burnt to a cinder.

“You’ve done nothing but mope about since Toby dumped you,” Ellen said. “And that was back in January!

“I reckon you’d get on well with Graham,” she added.


“The bloke in number 32. His flat is like a museum. I’ve never seen such a tidy place,” Ellen said.

“And you think some of his tidiness might rub off on me?”

“It wouldn’t hurt…”

Lisa eyed the piles of magazines, rolls of Christmas wrapping paper and boxes of unwritten cards littering the surfaces.

Some of the clutter had been there since Christmas 2021, a whole year stuck in I-can’t-be-bothered mode.

“Graham lives in a typical bachelor dwelling.” Ellen went on. “Two chrome units, one weird black ornament and an entertainment centre the size of Wales. No Christmas tree,” she confided. “He reckons they reek of pine disinfectant. And they shed needles.”

“He could get an artificial one…”

“They shed tinsel. Goodness knows why he employs me as a cleaner – there’s never any cleaning to do.”

Despite living in the same block and nodding or waving to each other, Lisa and Graham had never spoken, a failing remedied when he visited her workplace a few days later.

She eyed the pile of books he’d brought back to the library – tax, pensions and savings schemes, volumes mainly used as doorstops.

“Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet?” he asked.

“I haven’t even started it.” Lisa swiped his ticket through the reader. “Christmas Eve is soon enough for me.”

“But you’ll be busy getting ready for visitors by then.”

Lisa frowned. “Will I?”

He fished a note from his pocket and read it. “Pop round for festive drinks and nibbles, 7pm Christmas Eve. Lisa (No 17).”

Ellen had set her up!

“Oh, of course – I’m looking forward to it,” she lied, through gritted teeth.

“Why did you do it?” Lisa yelled at her so-called friend, later. “He’ll run a mile when he sees the state of my flat.”

“You need a reason to tidy up…”

“I’ll just do the living room,” Lisa told Sammy, piling magazines on the coffee table.

She lit a Christmas candle, shoved some frozen party snacks in the oven. “If Graham doesn’t like it, tough. He’ll have to get used to the real me.”

Given time, Graham may well have got used to the real Lisa, but whether he’d have got used to Sammy is doubtful…

Graham sat down; Sammy jumped on his lap.

“I hate cats,” he said as fine white cat hair coated his black jeans. He shooed Sammy away, but the cat wouldn’t budge.

Leaving them to it, Lisa went to collect the drinks and nibbles, only to find she hadn’t switched on the oven….

After opening a box of mince pies, originally bought for the carol singers, and emptying some crisps in a bowl, she returned just as Graham chucked Sammy across the table.

His tail knocked over the candle, which set the magazines alight…

Jumping up and brushing his jeans, Graham dialled 999.

“That cat wants putting down,” he yelled, rushing out.

“Good riddance!” Lisa yelled back.

Picking up the teapot, she emptied it over the blaze…

Neil, a hunky fireman, praised her actions. “Well done. That was quick thinking. How are you feeling?”

“A bit shaken up,” she admitted, “I’ve just realised my flat is a fire hazard. It needs a good tidy up and clear-out. I’m going to spring clean on Boxing Day.”

Twelve months’ neglect over a failed relationship? Ellen was right – she’d needed a shove to get moving again.

“Good for you,” Neil said. “Do you fancy coming to a party with me on New Year’s Eve?”

“I’d love to!”

“I’ll pick you up at eight. I’ve got to go.”

While she mopped up puddles of Earl Grey and wondered what to wear to the party, Sammy studied the tree. Busy shedding fur, he hadn’t noticed it earlier.

Jumping up, he clouted a couple of shiny baubles.

The tree came crashing down just as the carol singers arrived.

Sweeping up pine needles and broken decorations, Lisa joined in with the chorus: O Tidy-ings of Comfort and Joy, Comfort and Joy.

Pick up a copy of My Weekly magazine (in newsagents and supermarkets every Tuesday) for original fiction stories, and look out for new fiction content on our website every week. Never miss an issue – take out a subscription and save money too!