The Sue Gray report outlined Downing Street's 'poor treatment' of cleaners, when they should be cherished - Gaby Soutar

It’s a tough job, but relatively thankless.

By Gaby Soutar
Sunday, 5th June 2022, 4:55 am
Pic:JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images
Pic:JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

It was depressing to read that Sue Gray’s report into Partygate outlined Downing Street’s “lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff”.

After all, the way people treat those they consider to be beneath them - in this case, probably the entire population - is revealing.

You can file offenders under the same scummy category as those who don’t say thank you to bus drivers, or are rude to serving staff in restaurants.

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Pic: Getty Images/iStockphoto

I witness that behaviour all the time, and scramble their internal organs with my death stare.

The cleaning thing especially made my blood boil. That’s no mean feat, since it’s probably still three per cent isopropanol after my time working as one.

All my friends had gone travelling, and I did the temporary Mrs Mop thing.

Apart from the measly pay, this part-time gig was the perfect job for a socially awkward person, who just wanted to be left alone to get on with it.

The only irony is that I am a clart at home. I’m like Quentin Crisp, who said there was no point in cleaning, because after four years the dirt doesn’t get any worse. I could write my name on my monitor right now.

Despite this, in my cleaning job, I identified as one of the industrious Doozers on Fraggle Rock or the mice in Bagpuss.

Methodical. Singing while I worked. We will sew, we will sew.

I would collect my bucket, blue overcoat, lanyard and mop, then skim around the Victorian building that was the Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

I’d leave my male friend and co-conspirator behind with the senior cleaning ladies in the office. They would pamper him with Viscounts and Rich Teas, and treat him like the rare unicorn that he was - a man among all the female domestics.

My jobs included clearing the evening dinner trolley and doing vast amounts of washing up of trays and plates, still with half-finished macaroni cheese and stovies on them.

I’d sweep the long corridors and wards, and my favourite job was the buffing, using a giant bicep-testing machine that seemed to have a life of its own.

It was tough and I was invisible, though nobody was ever rude to me.

However, I have heard hair-raising stories, especially from pals who have cleaned hotels and self-catering properties.

These include a friend who had a job cleaning hunting lodges. One group left their elderly pal behind, since he’d died in the night, presumably due to natural causes. There he was, still in the bed, for the cleaner to discover, while his buddies went off to shoot peasants. I mean, pheasants.

Outside of Downing Street, it seems that people are naughtier in their leisure time.

Not all of them though. My husband tells me that he once read an article about Bobby Gillespie, who said he never trashed hotel rooms like other rock stars, in solidarity with the cleaners. I believe it. I also always try to behave myself if I know someone anonymous has to clear up.

I still feel embarrassed about a time that I stayed in a very posh London hotel for work.

While we were out, the cleaner took on the intimate job of tackling my ancient electric toothbrush. They must have used a chisel to get the fossilised Aqua Fresh off the thing.

Big kudos. We appreciate you, even if those at Number 10 don’t.

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