Apparently, one of the newspapers the other day showed a photograph of the Queen's breakfast tray, taken by a Royal householder and flogged for profit, I suspect. I haven't seen it yet, but it is supposed to show a mish-mash of chipped and dirty crockery, and various cereals in Tupperware boxes which have seen better days.
It started me thinking (anything but working) of the strange phenomena that I know to be real, and that is that the higher up the old-style social scale you are, the more unhygienic and untidy you become in old age. This trait is invariably accompanied by an utter disregard of what others may think about you, and can be justifiably catagorised as genuine eccentricity.
Years ago, I used to go out with a good-looking but nutty girl who came from a once grand family, and both her parents had titles attached to them that stretched back over many generations. They lived in a large, ramshackle house which was in constant need of reparation, but hardly ever received it, as they had long since run out of the sort of cash needed to bring it up to a decent standard and actually live there at the same time. Whenever I visited or spent the weekend, I would be pressed into climbing up enormous ladders in order to paint gutters, or some other equally dangerous task. This was the price set for the privilege of shagging their daughter, and it was one that I accepted readily at the time, being young and energetic, with an under-developed sense of mortality.
They did employ a cleaner, but I never worked out exactly what she did for her pitifully small wage-packet, apart from shout at me if I put an unwashed mug into the sink or failed to vacuum the carpet behind me if I had the cheek to walk on it whilst going from one room to another. She looked like a female version of the caretaker in the Harry Potter films, and crept noiselessly down the green beize corridors in order to surprise me by appearing in the living room during disciplinary sessions with the daughter of the house.
Informal mealtimes were haphazard affairs when everyone realised that they were hungry, looked at their watches and then at each other before beginning a protracted argument about whose duty it was to prepare supper. The criteria for these decisions was not so much to do with who did it last time, but more about who happened to be at the lowest end of the social spectrum at the time, and if ever I was present, it was transparently obvious to all that it was me.
One evening when it was decreed that me and my girlfriend were to prepare the food, we went to the cupboards and discovered that nobody had bothered to do any shopping either, so there was nothing obvious to eat except porridge, condiments and a few tins of dog food. I was sent down one of the corridors where a large, rusty chest freezer was kept next to a dusty glass display-case containing about fifty thousand pounds worth of Persian antiquities, and I began rummaging around in the freezing mist, looking for something that would feed half a dozen mad aristocrats, when I discovered - right at the bottom - a large and heavy plastic bag containing what I first thought to be a suckling pig. Scraping the frost away from the transparent plastic, it occurred to me that pigs were not born with black and white fur which they shed in maturity, so I shouted to the daughter to come and help me to identify the thing.
"Oh, that's a badger", she said, and I asked her what it was doing in the freezer.
"We found it on the side of the road about 6 years ago".
No explanation about WHY they put it in the freezer. No explanation about WHY they left it in the freezer for 6 years, and no explanation as to WHY this particular badger and not one of the dozens of others that must have been hit by cars over all that time.
The scary thing was that I accepted this 'account' of the badger in the freezer as being perfectly normal at the time. If she had said that there simply was not enough room in the freezer for all the other badgers, then I would have seen the logic of that too. There may have been a simple explanation for it. For instance, someone had seen the badger and for some reason decided to pick it up and bring it into the house. It stayed on the carpet of the living room for a couple of days, and everyone else thought it beneath their dignity to remove it to the garden, so waited for someone else to do so. The cleaner became fed up with Hoovering around it, so put it outside in the corridor for the family to trip over. A few days later, it would begin to smell, and an argument would ensue about whose responsibility it was to remove it from the corridor, and this argument would not be resolved. The cleaner would become fed up with tripping over it in the gloom, so put it into the nearby fridge freezer where it would lie forgotten until I turned up years later.
I really believe that that badger would still be there now, 30 years later, if it had not been defrosted by the house burning down about 3 years ago.