Rebecca Tyrrel: Days Like Those

'I talk to our new Polish cleaner via literalist drawings. Matthew, however, prefers charades'
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The search for Matthew's missing dart began shortly before 10pm and was called off at midnight. It is a Phil "The Power" Taylor special dart that has vanished; one of three I gave Matthew for our wedding anniversary. He gave me a first edition Sherlock Holmes (he earns more than me).

"I wish we had that clever Mr Holmes here with us now," said Matthew, when I thanked him for the thousandth time for such a magnificent present, in a bid to distract him from the missing dart. Not that it worked; it just gave him a cue to start looking at the problem in a Holmesian way and talk in an affected, precise manner like the great fictional detective himself. "It's a three-pipe problem if ever there was one," he said, "and now I am going to my shed to smoke three pipes." Off he set, but at the garden door he turned back with a tragic, lost look on his face and said: "I just can't for the life of me fathom how a dart can disappear like that. There it was, impaled cleanly in the very centre of the double 16 bed, and now it's vanished. It just doesn't make sense to me at all."

I have always regarded myself as the Dr Watson figure in our relationship, but in this case I have come up with the most likely culprit without the help of a single pipe. I suspect Viviana, our new cleaning lady. I am not accusing her of actually stealing the dart – sparse though our valuables are, if I was sizing up the joint I think I could find something a bit more worthwhile to rob than a Phil "The Power" Taylor dart (£9.99 for three). My late father's Victorian fly swat, for example. No, I think the dart has fallen foul of a simple misunderstanding.

Viviana has only been with us a fortnight, and things have not gone so well. Unfortunately, I have been slow to admit the cause of some of the minor catastrophes because Matthew, assuming that all candidates for the post would be Polish, did say that she must possess a bare minimum of English. And when Viviana came for her interview there were no apparent communication problems, although looking back it was her fluent English-speaking friend who actually spoke for her. Every time I asked a question Viviana motioned to her throat with a wave of her hand and I assumed she had laryngitis.

But she did not have laryngitis. What she had was about three words of English, although she has been going to English school and the wordage has increased tenfold since. Yesterday, I received a text from her that said: "Doctor I very much saying for back is pain. Come this day 4.15." Which I thought was very clever.

In order to communicate my wants to Viviana I draw pictures, but unfortunately I am a literalist, while Viviana is an allegorical critic who sees hidden meanings in my artwork. When, for instance, I drew a picture of the garden, shaded in autumnal colours, showing the thick layer of leaves lying on and around Matthew's shed and with a likeness of Viviana holding a rake and a bin liner, I meant her to understand that she was to rake leaves. However, to balance the composition of the drawing, I added the dogs. The result was that Viviana, who had only just arrived and taken off her hat and coat, studied the picture, put the coat and hat straight back on and took the dogs for a two-hour walk, having mistaken the rake for a lead and the bin liner for a dog-toy.

The drawing of which I was most proud was my rendition of Matthew actually in his shed with Viviana dusting around him, although Matthew – who cannot draw at all and communicates by performing charades – said that, while he was flattered by the likeness, in future he would rather I excluded him from the picture because he finds it very hard to work with a feather duster flicking at his ear lobes.

"Why didn't you just ask her to go away and come back when you're not there?" I asked. "Yes, that was stupid of me," replied Matthew, "because she'd have understood that perfectly, what with her tremendous grasp of the English language. What I did in fact do," he continued, "was perform a charade to which she nodded in response, before walking off with my standard lamp. Of course, I realise it is all our fault because, although we have lived in Shepherd's Bush for 16 years, we have made no attempt to assimilate and cannot speak a word of Polish. I am signing us up for night-school. If we apply ourselves, in two or three years we'll be able to ask Viviana to empty the dishwasher without her hoovering the inside of the bath. In the meantime, however, I believe that your method is best. Now, where are those Crayolas?"

Yesterday, Viviana came eccentrically late, 10.45pm, having sent me a text saying: "Sorry for late. Friend of Krakovia coming house of me this day." I was already in bed, and Matthew was at a poker game. Indeed, the first indication I had of the nocturnal cleaning was the plague of crickets hopping around the kitchen this morning. I'd left Viviana a drawing of several of these insects being released into the vivarium of our son's gecko. But this Brian Sewell of cleaning ladies clearly interpreted the vivarium as a metaphorical depiction of the kitchen and let the whole lot out.

Meanwhile, there is still no sign of the dart, and the replacement of the dartboard with the mirror from the landing can only be the result of Matthew's own misguided attempts at drawing.