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The Minnie Stories

Cleaning Up Your Act - Part 14

Not To Be Sneezed At

It’s my once – a – fortnight in Fulham this morning…..Mrs Webb’s. You know who I mean? One of the first ladies I ever cleaned for: the one who’s friends with Mrs Vernon?

She lives in one of those modern houses on a - what do you call them?, oh yes, a gated development; and she’s one of these people who doesn’t have bits and pieces around the place; it’s all very, you know, minimalist - very smart: though some people could think it’s a bit cold looking. And Mrs Webb is a bit like her house……very attractive, very modern, but she doesn’t really show her feelings.

When I get there, she buzzes me in through the security gate, and when she opens the front door, she’s sneezing, and her eyes are all red.

“Oh dear, that looks like a bad cold you’ve got there”. I say. “Why don’t you go back to bed, and I’ll make you a hot honey and lemon drink, and bring it up to you?”.

Then as I close the front door behind me, and take off my coat, the most unexpected thing happens - coming towards us from the kitchen I see this little marmalade ball of fluff…….and Mrs Webb picks it up and cuddles it, and says

“Minnie, meet Brandy”.

Well, the last thing I’d ever have expected Mrs Webb to have was a kitten! Or any animal for that matter; her house, and Mrs Webb herself, are somehow too clean and tidy for that! But there it was, this little long-haired scrap, and Mrs W is cuddling it, and sneezing, and smiling with her eyes streaming!

“She’s lovely! How long have you had her?” I asked.

“I got her about ten days ago”, she said. “I saw her in the pet shop in Fulham Palace Road…and I don’t know what happened really; but I was feeling a bit down: and I saw her, and she was huddled up in a corner of the window, all on her own. She just looked like I felt……and next minute I went in and bought her!”

“I would never have thought of you as an animal lover, I must admit!”

“Oh, I always used to have cats when I was younger, and my husband was alive”, she said. “We lived in a house in the country, and I had dogs as well! But when Jerry died, and I came here, and got a job, it didn’t seem fair to leave an animal alone all day.

But I’ve decided to work from home now, and I missed the company……..and now I feel as though she’s been here forever, even though it’s just ten days! I absolutely adore her!”

Well……..! That was the most emotional I’ve ever known Mrs W…..!

Anyway, she’s looking happier than she has for a while, even though she’s still sneezing and her eyes look really sore and swollen!

“How long have you had this cold?”, I asked her, as I got all the cleaning things from under her kitchen sink.

“Oh, it started well over a week ago, Minnie; but you know, it doesn’t feel like the kind of colds I usually catch. It’s really rather weird…….even the roof of my mouth feels itchy! Actually, if you don’t mind, I think perhaps I will go and lie down for a while.”

“Right, I’ll make you that hot drink and bring it up to you. If you like you can leave Brandy down here with me, so she doesn’t disturb you”

“Thank you Minnie, that’s very kind. Because I don’t let her into the bedroom yet anyway.”.

So up she went, having put the kitten into her basket in the kitchen.

When I’d made Mrs Webb’s drink, I took it upstairs, and put it on her bedside table. And

“Mrs W., you’re not sneezing!” I said, really surprised.

“No, I don’t seem to so much when I’m up here…..”

“Well, the only thing I can see different upstairs from downstairs”, I said, half joking, “is there’s no kitten up here!”

Then she looked at me….. and I looked at her….. and we both said……..

“Could it be a cat allergy!?”

“No, no, it can’t be”, says Mrs W., firmly. “I told you, I’ve always had cats, and I was always perfectly fine with them!”

“Yes, but that was quite a while ago, wasn’t it? We change, don’t we? As the man on Terry Wogan said, ‘Life is a work in progress’….but that’s another story!,” I told her. “And things do happen to change us…… we get stressed, or aggravated, that sort of thing. And who knows how these really affect us? My friend Bob told me he knew someone who started getting hay fever after he’d been through a divorce…..and he’d been a farmer for years!”

“That’s interesting Minnie. Because as you know, my mother died a few months ago: and I miss her terribly…..we’ve always been so very close……….”

She looked really sad, and I felt a bit embarrassed: I don’t know why to tell you the truth; but it was like she was letting me see something very private inside herself. On the other hand, I felt honoured that she felt she could, if you know what I mean?

“Good heavens Minnie! I’ve just remembered something…………after the funeral I went to stay with my brother and sister-in-law for a few days….. and I didn’t stop sneezing from the moment I arrived there to the moment I left. And they have two adorable cats, Beanie and Beau! Good Lord! Do you think your friend Bob could be right?”

“Bob’s very wise”, I said, trying not to sound proud of him (I mean, it’s not as if he’s mine to be proud of, is it? But I am!)

“So what on earth would he suggest I do about it then?

“Well, he did mention something the farmer did; mind you, it sounded a bit strange, though…….”.

“How it sounded doesn’t matter, Minnie! Did it work?” .

“Yes, Bob said it worked a treat! And I was so interested, I got him to tell me exactly what happened. You want maybe I should tell you now, so you can do it?”

“Oh yes please, Minnie!”

“Well, from what I can remember, Bob told me that when something really upsetting happens to us, our body gets really low - and instead of reacting to things around us normally, it starts to make mistakes………! And the funny thing is, it does something that actually takes our mind off whatever is hurting us. So maybe the farmer was okay with grass or whatever before, but then his divorce upset him so much, one of the things that happened was that his body started to treat the grass like it was an enemy!

So what he did was, he found something similar to grass that he was okay with - I think it was the wheat from his field - and then………..look, instead of me trying to explain, why don’t we just have a go now, Mrs Webb?”

“Yes, let’s! What do I have to do first?”

So I asked her what was something like the kitten’s hair - maybe another kind of hair? - that she wasn’t allergic to……and she thinks for a minute, and says

“Well I go riding every week in Rotten Row, in Hyde Park, and I’m fine with my horse!”

And I’m thinking,

“Incredible.. not only a cat lover, but horses as well! And I thought I knew her!”

“Okay”, I say. “Look through the window”, and she does; “Now imagine you can see yourself out there, as if you were in Hyde Park, in the stables……and you’re grooming your horse, and giving it a cuddle, and you’re absolutely fine, yes?”

She agrees; and as she does, I notice that while her eyes are still ‘seeing’ herself being fine with her horse, she touches the gold locket round her neck. So I say

“Now keep looking through the window and notice that into the stable yard, where your horse was, comes the stable cat. And it nuzzles up to you, and rubs itself round your legs: and as you touch your locket again now, you can see that you’re just fine with the cat. In fact, you can see yourself picking it up and cuddling it, and you’re exactly the same as you are with your horse”.

And she nods, smiling.

So I say that she’s now put right the case of ‘mistaken identity’ that her head had been going through with her brother’s cats, and the kitten…….and used its comfortable, normal, reaction to the horse to replace the allergic reaction to cats!

And what does she do? You’re right……! Off she goes straight downstairs, into the kitchen - and she picks up Brandy, the kitten, from her basket, and kisses her, rubbing her face deep into the cat’s fluffy coat!

And we wait……..and wait…..and the longest five minutes later she’s still fine! No sneezing, no runny eyes, no scratchy roof of her mouth! And by the time I finish cleaning two hours later, Mrs Webb is still breathing normally, like she’d never had an allergy in her life!

Still cuddling Brandy, she walks me to the door.

“Thank you so much, Minnie. Another beautiful cleaning job as always,”, she says. “In every way…..!”

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Cleaning Up Your Act

Introduction To The Story Collection

The Minnie Kerchevsky Stories

Real wisdom can often be found in the most unlikely places....not from teachers, coaches, professors and so on, but from ordinary people who have their own life experiences to draw on to help others.

Cleaning Up Your Act is a collection of the stories of one of these very special people.........

Minnie Kerchevsky is a so-called ‘ordinary woman’, a cleaner, a 'daily', with no pretensions, no super-ego... just a desire to make things better in any way she can; helping those around her to “clean up their acts” in her own unique and heart-warming way!

Minnie believes that what stops us being happy is thinking we don’t have choices - and that feel-good is a state of mind we can always choose to be in!

So in ‘Cleaning Up Your Act’, we gradually learn about Minnie’s own life and events - and how she dealt with challenges and learned how to see raindrops as sunbeams in disguise! - interwoven through the stories she shares about the people she impacts with the homespun wisdom that is the essence of who and how she is, because of who and how she has been.

Each of us has met Minnie, or someone like her, in our lives... and if we haven’t, we’re the poorer for it - so here’s our chance to put that right!


The Collection

1. Minnie >>

2. The Miriam Part Of Me >>

3. Melanie From Accounts >>

4. Getting It Off My Chest >>

5. Kids! >>

6. The Man On The Stairs >

7. Fat Chance! - My Lady In Chelsea >>

8. Having A Minnie Break >>

9. Thank You Terry Wogan >>

10. Maps! >>


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