Unquotable quotes: The Janitor, Gardienne, Landlady, Housekeeper, Portero, Sereno and the Hausgast –XXXii Part Two
The duties of the Housekeeper in the U.K. par rapport au Portero in Spain or the Gardienne in France is that the former is a sort of “official” who supervises the activities of others who carry out the menial jobs in bigger establishments like hostels, etc. , while in smaller houses of two or three storeys, she lives in and also does the cleaning and services the rooms let out by the Landlady. In hostels, the overall authority is the Warden who administered the place much as the Regisseur in France who had charge of a collection of buildings under one or more owners. These days, the Syndic, whose agency might be located quite far away, performs
similar tasks akin to the latter’s.
In Spain, the menial tasks fall to the spouse while the Portero, himself, occupies a niche in the entrance to buildings where – in the old days - he may play the telephone operator and check on anyone entering the building under his charge. In the not too distant past, the Sereno who was entrusted with the keys to all the gates to buildings in each street - from dusk to dawn - somewhat replaced the Portero. To gain entry into your building after dark, you had merely to clap your hands, and the Sereno would appear out of the dark doorways to let you in, and it was customary to tip them for they obviously belonged in the lower income brackets.
With the advent of improvements in telecommunications, the Gardienne, too, need no more place under surveillance the entrances, for the intercom facilities have rendered this task superfluous.
In post-war Germany, the euphemism “Hausgast” (family guest) served to mask either a paying lodger or a lover. Of course, the lodger left the cleaning and servicing chores to the landlady.
The important thing to remember is that all these “professions” must have come about either from the need to house people displaced by social mobility – from rural to urban areas – or from out of the need to supplement the earnings of land-and-property owners, or contrariwise for both reasons.
And it wouldn’t be far-fetched to conjecture that such a situation soon required the services of a sort of “moral police” to keep a check on free movement in and out of houses and buildings.
And morals like thighs ceded to pressure when palms were soothed with tight wads of notes!
Yet, in recent times, with the growth of monolithic states, the authorities concerned could count on these building-and house-keepers as the primal source of information on the comings and goings of the inhabitants, and hence this lot is a protected and cherished “race” to be feared by all. A Malay proverb could best sum up this predicament: “Pagar makan padi.” (Literally: The fence eats the paddy.) Or rather, trust not the protector!
El Manco de Lepanto keeps Sereno Vigil over Espana
Echoes hurry clapping in the Plaza de Espana
Wake-stirs insomniac Quijote on flankless Rocinante
His spear at the ready to serve his sweet Dulcinea
Serenos slump stiff in doorways of lands Levante
Slung tight over dark green clad Carabineros
Silent the semi-automatics steel soft the duo tred
Who goes there? Hark the Cornudo! Voice the Madrilenos
In the bedded down velvet streets Senoritas bled
Jingling keys turn in iron-cast chastity-locked belts
Distressed Sancho gawks at windmills in la Mancha
Who hears now El Manco of Lepanto’s cry melts
The snows of Guadalahara in copas de horchata
Brothel brawls at Valladolid blamed him for brouhaha
Was Cervantes the Sereno of today’s lax morals Espana
© T. Wignesan – Paris, 2016