Bronte Ladies never went short of tea towels at home.
Or Pledge furniture polish, or Ajax scouring powder, yellow dusters, floor cloths or shiny Izal toilet paper.
Our mother worked as a cleaner at the Leeds Carnegie College of Sporting Excellence – a college with a nationwide reputation for producing our finest sporting athletes, coaches and teachers, and a college seriously lacking in basic cleaning materials.
She cleaned one half of the first floor of the Bronte Hall of residence, a three storey building which housed female students, “our girls”, in single rooms, forty or fifty to a floor. At least a dozen Bronte ladies cleaned Bronte hall, working in pairs, each pair cleaning half a floor, 9am to noon with a break for tea and Yo-Yo chocolate biscuits at 10.30.
Their small staff room was a cacophony of conversation at the 10.30 break, they all talked at the same time without ever pausing for breath with at least six different topics of conversation being aired consecutively – some of them actually managed to take part in more than one conversation at the same time.
The Bronte job didn’t pay well in hard cash – why it only just kept us kids in Action Men and Subbuteo teams, but it had fringe benefits the main one being that none of the Bronte ladies had ever had the need to purchase any form of cleaning material at their local supermarket for all sorts of cleaning materials were freely available from the Leeds City Council stores, without questions asked.
“Why on earth” the Carnegie College storekeepers must have asked “Do Bronte ladies go through five yellow dusters per day – each?”
“How come the Ajax consumption at Bronte is seven times that of all the other halls put together?” they must have mused.
“And where on earth do six tons of Izal toilet roll disappear to every month at Bronte?” someone must have puzzled.
But no, no one ever asked the question. The nearest thing that they got to security was that every item, every duster, every teacloth and tea-towel, every Ajax bottle had the word “Bronte” stencilled onto it. A more pointless exercise I have never come across as, if you are not going to check the materials at their final destination then there is no point in marking the goods in the first place.
So it was then that for many, many years all cleaning materials in our house had the word “Bronte” stencilled on it, and when you asked our mother why, she would just laugh to herself and say “Never you mind”.
Even several years after she had retired and been rewarded with a ceremonial presentation dinner at the Leeds Civic Hall for “long, honourable and trustworthy service to the council” (if only they knew), we were still using Bronte cleaning materials, in fact when I moved out of the family home for my enforced sojourn to the North East, I took several boxes of Bronte goods, to the eternal puzzlement of my new Geordie in-laws who must have thought that “Bronte” was some strange mystical Yorkshire symbol for “cleaning materials”.
The only downside to living in a Bronte ladies house was the endless supply of Izal toilet paper.
Izal toilet paper was stiff, unforgiving toilet paper, shiny on one side and rough on the other, a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea you could skid the shiny side up your backside and achieve nothing or use the rough side and not sit down for a week.
It was also “medicated”, or so it stated down the edge of each strip.
Exactly what this meant is unknown but I can state quite categorically that after using Izal for several years I never once had a disease of the arse.
Imagine my delight on moving away from the clutches of home and the endless supply of Izal to find that the rest of the world used a much softer, more benign toilet paper during their ablutions, and shock of all shocks – you had a choice of colour.
Oh the pleasure to be obtained from wiping your nether regions with paper as soft and as white as the driven snow, I have to confess right here that I became addicted to laxative chewing gum in order to guarantee several visits per day to the abluting chamber and experience the delight and unashamed luxury of soft toilet roll.