Being slightly obsessive compulsive isn’t fun. That means that living in Egypt isn’t very easy because I’m a bit of a clean freak.

The morning after I arrived in Egypt, I was able to get a proper look at the flat and since my schedule was not due to be set for a few days, the inspection was thorough. As I dragged myself out of bed and shifted around the cold apartment the first most notable thing I would notice was the carpet. The apartment was a social joint, so other students would walk in and out like a bar with a revolving door. There were many large gatherings and dining sessions that took place and since there was no dining table big enough, everyone sat on the floor, scoffed at each other while thrusting their food into their mouths.As a result of these dinner parties, remnants of food surplus to someone’s mouth would fall to the floor and strike an immediate relationship with the carpet. The intensity of these numerous relationships of food and carpet were so heated that they eventually stuck to each other, ‘til death do them part.

Walking on the old carpet sent a chill up my spine, I looked to investigate the unprovoked attack on the underside of my foot. The chill escalated to a spasm, ketchup-crust-coated chicken is meant to go in one of two places, mouth or bin. Before I had a chance to absorb the calamity, I saw scattered pieces of food within a four-foot vicinity. Aghast, I reluctantly began picking up the pieces of food off the floor, escalating to a full-scale sweep of the place. I wasn’t one to take any chances so I pulled out the vacuum cleaner; at that point Rehan, one of my flat mates walked in.

“Oh,” he said, “you’re cleaning.”The tone in his voice was one of astonishment but it didn’t distract me from the job at hand. For some bizarre reason, we both peered at the vacuum cleaner and seeing it in front of me he exclaimed, “uhm, that doesn’t work. We tried to fix it but we don’t know what’s wrong with it.”  With that he walked off while I cursed at the useless contraption.

I didn’t believe him. Apparently I often hear the advice of other people but don’t actually listen, but it’s a grand claim made by most women about their partners, so ignore that. After a pause, it was obvious to me that the machine needed my expertise so the plug was thrust into the socket, sure enough it didn’t work beyond the low drone of a whirring motor. I scratched my head for a little while and set myself to task, upon opening the cover it revealed the dust bag. I touched it and it bellowed with particles of dirt to such an extent that had Aladdin’s Genie popped out and proclaimed something bizarre (dubbed mercurially by Robin Williams), I would not have been at all surprised. So I struck the dust before me fanning the thousand grains of filth away and in slightly more than a whisper of annoyance, I proclaimed my revelation, “The. Bag. Is. Full!

Not only was it full, it had been so tightly packed that the dust was forcing its way into the motor. Being in a place of scarce resources, there were obviously no spare dust bags so the old bag was emptied into the bin and slotted back into the cleaner. It was as though I had reconditioned a car engine when I turned it on, bursting into life with its monotone hum. Rehan popped out of his room to see what the noise was, he smiled and said in his thick Manchester accent, “you fixed it then, what was wrong with it?”

Aware that he hadn’t heard my previous announcement, I informed him in way that can only be described as a matter-of-fact that the bag packed tighter than a tube of toothpaste wedged under the buttocks of a fatty. The edges of my lips motioned remnants of sarcasm, slanting to the left Katie Holmes-like, whilst my eyebrows raised and chin dipped simultaneously. The conversation was fleeting and with that we turned away from each other whilst I pound the vacuum to the floor, taking the dirt to task. When I had finished that portion of the house, I mimicked Droopy the bloodhound and hunted out something else to clean. You know what? That makes me Maaaad!

The hair-infested mop in the bathroom never helped in cleaning the place: Cousin It, of Addams Family fame was at the end of the stick, shedding hair at an uncontrollable rate. I have a given rule, it’s no different to applying the five second rule whereby, any piece of food that touches the floor for less than five seconds is still considered permissible to eat because it hasn’t had adequate time to absorb the nastiness off the floor. Anything more than that and it’s consigned to the bin.

Here’s another one: When you give something to someone it becomes theirs unless you retract your generous decision with three seconds, I recall my brother tormenting me with that one and his brand new PC.

You can have it,”  he says, referring to the new Intel 386 desktop, packed with groundbreaking features such as 5 ¼” and 3 ½” floppy drives, a 40mb hard drive. I’m salivating right now, phwoar!

I extend my fingers as each second passes, knowing what he’s going to do.

One..” I say with supreme confidence.

Two..” With a slight quiver and eyes looking towards my brother in earnest.


No, it’s mine again.” He says.

What a wa**** (I don’t really mean that). I’d complain that the three seconds had already expired and now it was mine. I could be blue in the face and I’d even complain to my mum, distinctly aware that the only two people in the world that aren’t aware of the rule are my parents. It would still be futile complaining, but the attempt in seizing the computer from his grasp was necessary. Worse still, I’d be a sucker for the same trick a billion times. So, if for some strange reason you’re unaware of any such rule, you’d be asked, “what you don’t know the five second rule?”

Every living soul has these rules, the time frame may differ slightly and the specifics might differ, but they exist nonetheless. In England, a squatter can stay in a place for twenty years and finally claim the land as theirs, or something, you see how far this thing goes. It started off as a childish concept and was hosted by the world’s greatest diplomats. Yeah, so everyone knows the rule.

Digression is my nemesis and brevity is not my friend. Where was I? Ah, my given rule. My rule dictates that the most important and acceptable rooms in the house must be the Kitchen and Bathroom. Some may contest that this rule is universal but evidence suggests otherwise: It turns out that neither of these two particular rooms in the flat were anything reminiscent of clean. I couldn’t dwell on it and went on to clean both which came as a surprise to the tenants, as though cleaning was something alien and taboo. Everyone says that they can’t go for a number two in another man’s toilet, or there’s no loo like your own; that’s precisely the reason why it has to be clean. I decontaminated it with nuclear accuracy despite Cousin It spreading the hair everywhere, to overcome that I had to make a trip to the grocery store to purchased a new one: How do I say Mop head in Arabic? Like I said, I returned and cleaned up the now white tiled floor, which previously resembled a shag pile but the hair had disappeared now leaving it gleaming in the light.

The black tub was scrubbed to reveal its green enamel surface and it swooned over me compelling me to have a soak in the tub. Normally I would spare you the details of this particular cleanup operation, but I need to mention one thing: Have you ever seen the Chris Rock sketch about passing time at work, the one where he’s talking about cleaning shrimp? “Scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape.” Well, bring it up on YouTube, because that’s how I felt. Once I had finished it all I gave in to the bath Siren and jumped into a tub of semi-cold water, in spite of that small glitch I felt relieved. Improvisation is important in this country, I learnt that because there was no plug in the hole so I bunged it with a plastic lid that had once belonged to a crystal box, it turned out to be very sturdy.

Cleaning up and hard work makes you incredibly hungry.


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