My Conscience Needs a Clean; London Exploiter: Kierston Wareing as Angie in Ken Loach's It's a Free World

The Evening Standard (London, England), September 4, 2007 | Go to article overview

My Conscience Needs a Clean; London Exploiter: Kierston Wareing as Angie in Ken Loach's It's a Free World


Byline: RICHARD GODWIN

LET'S face it, I am a pig. I have no problem living in my own swill,amid unopened bank statements, humid teabags and scattered boxer shorts.

My girlfriend is less swinish than me, but long work hours have had certainpiggy side-effects. In short, our flat is a bit of a sty and the problembecomes ever more acute as, 21st-century professionals that we are, ourpossessions accumulate in inverse proportion to the time we have to put themaway.

Having broken many resolutions, we eventually decided to enlist the services ofa cleaner. My girlfriend found a north London cleaning agency on the web, andone telephone call later, I was giving Nadezhda, a recent arrival fromBulgaria, a sort of counterintuitive house tour.

Instead of discreetly brushing over the mess, I was actively seeking it out toimpress on her the gravity of the task. "Look! Look how messy it is!" I said inmy best Bulgarian - Nadia's English runs to the delectable phrase "I cleaning!I cleaning!", accompanied by a flourish of Mr Muscle.

Using her husband as translator, we worked out terms, exchanged a fewpleasanteries and said our dovizhdanes. I felt rather satisfied.

Not long afterwards, however, my girlfriend and I went to a screening of KenLoach's new film, It's a Free World, which has since premiered at Venice, andwill be shown on Channel 4 on 13 September. It put our new role as employers ofdomestic staff in a disturbing context. `The film centres on Angie, a feistysingle mother who works for an employment agency that sends East Europeans onshort-term labouring jobs. When she is unfairly sacked, she decides to set upher own agency, the better to provide for her son. Despite good intentions, shefinds herself rewarded for exploiting the workers. Needless to say, the taledoes not end happily.

This ran through my head as I let Nadia in a few days later - more particularlyas I negotiated with the agency, and found she receives only about two-thirdsof the cash we pay for her service. …

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