Tuesday, 23 October 2007

He Sweeps, He Cleans, He Rules Dovecot Towers

Dovecot Towers is patrolled by a mysterious cleaning contractor who moves down the corridors with ghostly stealth. Working discreetly and quietly, he has a habit of appearing behind me when I least expect, a bit like Mr Benn.

He’s the man who knows. Always hoovering, mopping or doing something clever and strange like polishing wooden doors with baby oil, he says I am (what he describes as) one of the few ‘normal’ people in the building. I take this as a compliment.

Certain other tenants treat him like a servant. He’s been summoned haughtily to the penthouses as if he is their butler. For some strange reason, he is expected to haul large packages and even their shopping up several flights of stairs whenever the lifts are broken.

I have the impression that secretly, he runs the place. He’s taught me all I know about the true nature of Dovecot Towers. I discovered that the car park is owned by one person, the structure by another company, while individual landlords own the flats, with a separate business responsible for the maintenance of Dovecot Towers in its entirety. As he told me this, he was carrying huge sacks of leaking rubbish, having just removed dogs mess from the lift.

Whilst diligently mopping up some beer thrown around the foyer’s walls and surfaces, he explained that many of the flats are owned by foreign investors, who don’t pay much attention to the maintenance of their property. He agrees that one day, Dovecot Towers will be a slum (and that it’s already 75% there). He says he’s scared to scrub too hard, as some of the surfaces could crumble, and the structure is so dainty that even dusting could knock it down.

I don’t envy him. He spends his day being abused and mocked. He empties the bin rooms of maggot infested rubbish in the summer. There isn’t enough money in the world to compensate him for the filth he sees, or the snide comments he tolerates. Britain has a caste system; cleaners are de facto untouchables, decreed to be disgusting by association, designated a lower form of life by the same people who leave suppurating detritus, bodily humours and rubbish for him to clear.

Despite polite requests, tenants persist in dumping bed frames, and other heavy discarded furniture for him to dispose of (why not ask and then give him a hand?) They’ve obviously confused him with a porter, and a bin man, but they should beware: he has secret powers. One word to him and noisy neighbours are mysteriously silenced. Some are never seen again…

He’s only a cleaner after all; just the man who gathers shards of broken glass every Monday morning. He’s a servant who mops up vomit, and sweeps away the fag ends. Funnily enough, he owns the cleaning company, and makes a decent living from cleaning up filth. Certain hoity-toity, high and mighty residents actually have the audacity to believe they’re better than he is. Fine sentiments indeed from people who piss on the floor.

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