Just where did the bucket go while we were enjoying our walk along the prom?
- Credit: Stephen Coombes
Sometimes, it seems my dimness knows no bounds.
Allow me to set the scene for you: It was a Saturday. The day was bright, the sun high.
My husband had been called in for overtime and my elder daughter had left for work earlier in the day.
The younger children and I ate lunch around two - a little late, but the morning had been lazy and there was no need to rush.
I announced over the table that we would go for a walk around 3pm. We'll go to the beach, I said. We'll have ice creams, I said. It'll be fun.
Lunch over, I washed up, and glanced down at the kitchen floor. It needed a sweep, for sure. It needed a mop. I checked the clock - I had time, if I got going. I got going.
We had the kitchen renovated a few years ago and, impressed by the samples we saw, selected black slate tiles for the floor.
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Of course, in store they are not subjected to daily spillages from fridge, oven, teapot and sink. They never get trodden on by dusty foot or dirty paw.
They don't get sprayed with metallic paint at Christmas because the layer of newspaper laid over them was inadequately distributed, and they are never exposed to friction from the wheel of bike, skateboard or car - remote control model, admittedly, but not averse to the odd tyre burn or doughnut display.
Under the showroom's artful artificial lights the tiles looked stunningly sophisticated; in our home, they look haplessly grubby.
We sweep at least once a day - frequently twice and regularly thrice - but the improvement thereafter, although welcome, falls short.
My husband, frustrated by the lacklustre appearance of the tiles shortly after installation, devoted hours to them, investing in expensive cleaning solutions and hi-tech mops, and seeking the advice of staff at local hardware stores.
His efforts were largely in vain; all that resulted was a heavier heart - and a lighter wallet.
The kitchen is situated on the ground floor of our three-story house, and backs up against a wall of earth at one end. As such, it stays comfortably cool in the summer; after a long work shift, my husband likes to do nothing more - and I like to see him do nothing less - than remove his shoes and socks and spread his overheated feet on the blissfully chilly tiles.
In the winter - from September to mid-July - it's Arctically cold, and the floor's frigid surface bites mercilessly through the thickest of socks and slippers.
Year upon year, we regret our decision not to install underfloor heating - an opportunity missed, and forever mourned.
Still, I will not let the floor - and myself, by default - suffer by not taking care of it. When it newly shines post-mop, it glisters most gratifyingly.
Having swabbed myself into the stairwell on that particular day, I discarded the mop in the kitchen corner, carried the bucket upstairs and emptied it outside the front door.
Job done, I chivvied the children along, issuing commands about shoes, coats and sun cream, and we set off on our walk.
Arriving home several hours later - lengthy promenade plus ice cream plus church - I skipped downstairs to admire my earlier handiwork.
Now dried, the floor had sadly lost its initial gleam, but it still looked the better for its clean.
Heading upstairs again to retrieve the bucket from whence I had emptied it, I opened the front door - and found it gone. I returned to check the usual storage spot: nothing. I made inquiry of the children: nothing. I returned to the front door and searched more thoroughly: no trace.
With narrowed eyes, I cast my gaze neighbour-ward, flagrantly trampling on many years' good standing - but I knew better than to suspect any of them: they are good people.
Fully flummoxed, I considered my next move. Should I report the theft to the police? Should I cut my losses and buy a new bucket? Should I admit defeat and abandon mopping for the rest of my days - a tempting proposition?
Deep in thought, I retraced my steps downstairs once more - whereupon I located the bucket, tucked into an unexpected corner.
Replacing it and the mop in their usual spot, I metaphorically wiped my brow, relieved that I had ignored the instinct to report the crime. I rather suspect the police would have wiped the floor with me.