Trade Secrets with a Window Cleaner

David is a window cleaner, born and bread in the many windowed county of Northumberland. He has been cleaning windows for decades and has racked up a loyal customer base. Time for some trade secrets…

Interview by Bella Spencer

I got married at 18, and lived in the area for 5 years before I was made redundant from my job as a driver for a catering company. I started cleaning my own windows, and the neighbours kept asking me to wash theirs. That’s how I got so much work, because I knew everybody and their dog.

I deal with hundreds of people a week. You do become friends because I’ve been doing this for 28 years. They tell me all sorts, from domestic violence, to what their children are up to. Drug problems, alcohol problems, and such. I just listen. You try and give them the answer that they want, because a lot of the time people don’t want to face the truth, and it’s not my position to tell them my actual opinion.

Women have told me that their husbands have been beating them up and been accusing them of things that they haven’t been doing – like going to town dressed up as a tart and things like that. I feel protective because I come from a houseful of women. I think that’s the reason they tend to open to me a lot. You try not to get emotionally involved, because it’s not in your interest, but you do get dragged in.

People often come into my ‘patch’. It’s a free world, they’ve got every right to come and work, but my customers are loyal. They panic more than I do- “There’s somebody on your patch, chase them off”. But you can’t chase them off, because you don’t know who you’re dealing with. They threaten me with violence, they say they’re going to beat me up, because it’s their livelihood. It’s a very dangerous situation. You just ignore the threats- you can’t be seen brawling in the streets. They always disappear after a few months.

I’ve been accused of stealing from people. There was a lady who had a hot water cylinder, worth about 20 quid. It went missing from her back yard after I had been working, and she accused me. So, I gave her my address and my phone number and told her to tell the police to phone me. Funnily, I didn’t hear anything else.

You get people messing around your ladders- silly old buggers whacking the bottom with their walking sticks to get my attention. In March I broke my arm in four places, I was climbing over a gate, and the whole thing fell forwards. All my body weight went on one arm, it earned me a double fracture in my wrist and fractured elbow. It’s the law of averages- if you go up and down and ladder 20 times a day you’re gonna come a cropper.

My main hobby is diving. I became interested from Jacques Cousteau, he had a programme on the telly in the 70s. I signed up in my local leisure centre in my 30s. I’ve been diving in English and Scottish waters, in Tenerife , Crete, Australia Indonesia, Egypt and Thailand. If I could have my time again I’d be a commercial diver, there is lots of money in that.

I think I’ll be a window cleaner forever. I’m the end of the window cleaning line in my family, both my daughters are solicitors.

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