The art of the matter

It's one of those many things that everyone should be able to do equally well but that, in reality, some do much better than others. No, I don't mean the art of talking sense, but rather one of the oldest tasks known to man - cleaning.

In the same way that I've always admired practical people because I'm really useless when it comes to odd jobs and the like, I look upon those with highly developed cleaning skills with a mixture of awe and wonder. There have been a couple of times our cleaning lady at the pub hasn't been able to come to work and someone else has stood in; the difference has been all too evident on each occasion. Let's not even mention the day I tried to do it - the place looked worse than when I'd started and I could swear I spotted a gathering queue of undesirable grime-loving creatures just outside the door, rubbing their hands with glee.

During lockdown, having exhausted all other options, including staring blankly into space while drooling, I did attempt one deep clean of the apartment but, given the time and energy expended, the difference was laughably negligible, the only reward being the discovery of approximately two hundred and eighteen thousand guitar plectrums which I'd lost over the years.

Anyway, my admiration for cleaners rose again this week when a story emerged about a couple of them on the London underground removing a piece of graffiti by Banksy which he'd daubed on the inside of a train. There's something deeply gratifying about pretentious art meeting no-nonsense mop and bucket and the latter emerging victorious. I learned long ago to be very wary of any artwork involving the word 'installation' - it's invariably not very good. Damian Hirst offered such a thing a few years back; this one involved half-filled coffee cups, empty beer bottles and old newspapers. Guess what? Another superhero cleaner toddled by, swept it up and put it where it belonged - in the bin. In Italy an artist called Sala Murat turned up at the gallery one morning to find that his cardboard, newspaper and stale biscuit masterpiece had been unceremoniously dumped in the rubbish by the cleaners. Who could blame them?

Perhaps the Turner prize ought to be judged by a crack team of professional cleaners, then, all suitably armed with mops, buckets and a humungous sledgehammer.