Those who enjoy keeping up with the Joneses will need to raise their game beyond well-trimmed hedges. Allegedly, every house brims with tell-tale signs of its owners’ IQ.
I know this because my husband’s PhD boss is coming to tea and Him Indoors has Googled ‘how clever is your house?’
His findings send him flapping about like a demented Y-front-wearing Hyacinth Bucket.
‘Are you responsible for this?’ he asks, pointing at a roll of Andrex. Mea culpa. I have hung the Velvety Soft on the holder so that it unravels over, rather than under, the roll.
‘It will scream “illiterate”! The paper must go under to facilitate a one-handed tear without dropping The Economist!’
Framed photos of his older siblings go in a bin liner because firstborns are brightest and his phone is set to silent because non-stop texters suffer brain-dumming ‘infomania’.
Moments later, my beloved is found pulling well-thumbed memoirs by Margaret Thatcher and Churchill off the shelves.
‘What are you doing now?’ I ask. Alan Clarke’s Diaries hit the deck and the bookshelf starts leering like a mouth full of missing teeth.
‘According to evolutionary psychologists, people with liberal political views have higher intelligence. You’re female. Don’t you have something by Germaine Greer?’
I have long been embarrassed by our domestic squalor, but had no idea guests were scanning the cultural capital along with the dog hairs. Photoshopped doctorates in gilt frames are de trop, apparently, but a Radio Times left open on the BBC Four page is just the thing.
Musicians have functionally better brains. Ergo, a sprinkling of woodwind instruments on the piano is de rigeur. If the latter’s keys sit under dust, the effect is undermined. And a porridge-encrusted Peppa Pig tambourine won’t do.
At quarter-to-eight the phone rings and the boss cancels with flu. Oh the relief! My stash of Heat magazines is unearthed and Margaret returns to her rightful place. Our house may not be smart, in either sense of the word, but isn’t it more intelligent not to care?