Episodes

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0120190121

Lanna Joffrey reads Stephanie Land’s hard-hitting account of living on minimum wages in present-day America.

Struggling to support her young daughter as a single parent, Stephanie finds work as a cleaner in the US tourist resort of Port Townsend, Washington State. Her memoir tells the story of this new life, scrubbing bathrooms, scraping food off the ceiling of trailers, and becoming an invisible ghost in the houses she cleans.

“I became fascinated by the things hidden in the dark corners of the houses I cleaned. The snooping was like uncovering clues, finding evidence of the secret lives of people who seemed like they had it all. I began to pay attention to the items that cluttered their kitchen counters: the receipts for rugs that were as expensive as my car, the bill for the dry cleaner that could replace half my wardrobe. Most of my clients worked long hours, away from the homes they fought so hard to pay for. They worked to pay me just above the minimum wage, to keep it all spotless, in place, acceptable.”

Over five episodes, we hear about the relationships she forms with her clients, including the moving story of her friendship with Wendy, a woman who is dying of cancer and who hires Stephanie to help her parcel up her possessions and set her whole house in order. Even when Stephanie doesn’t meet her clients, she vividly imagines their lives.

She begins to give the different houses nick-names - “the Cigarette House”, “the Porn House”. Through it all, she is sustained by her love for her daughter Mia, and her determination to keep food on the table. And, in the end, her ambition to become a writer provides an escape.

Written by Stephanie Land
Read by Lanna Joffrey
Abridged and produced by Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Stephanie Land's first-hand account of working as a low-wage cleaner in today's America.

Serialised book readings, featuring works from various genres

012019012120190122 (R4)

Lanna Joffrey reads Stephanie Land’s hard-hitting account of living on minimum wages in present-day America.

Struggling to support her young daughter as a single parent, Stephanie finds work as a cleaner in the US tourist resort of Port Townsend, Washington State. Her memoir tells the story of this new life, scrubbing bathrooms, scraping food off the ceiling of trailers, and becoming an invisible ghost in the houses she cleans.

“I became fascinated by the things hidden in the dark corners of the houses I cleaned. The snooping was like uncovering clues, finding evidence of the secret lives of people who seemed like they had it all. I began to pay attention to the items that cluttered their kitchen counters: the receipts for rugs that were as expensive as my car, the bill for the dry cleaner that could replace half my wardrobe. Most of my clients worked long hours, away from the homes they fought so hard to pay for. They worked to pay me just above the minimum wage, to keep it all spotless, in place, acceptable.”

Over five episodes, we hear about the relationships she forms with her clients, including the moving story of her friendship with Wendy, a woman who is dying of cancer and who hires Stephanie to help her parcel up her possessions and set her whole house in order. Even when Stephanie doesn’t meet her clients, she vividly imagines their lives.

She begins to give the different houses nick-names - “the Cigarette House”, “the Porn House”. Through it all, she is sustained by her love for her daughter Mia, and her determination to keep food on the table. And, in the end, her ambition to become a writer provides an escape.

Written by Stephanie Land
Read by Lanna Joffrey
Abridged and produced by Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Stephanie Land's first-hand account of working as a low-wage cleaner in today's America.

Serialised book readings, featuring works from various genres

0220190122

Lanna Joffrey reads Stephanie Land’s hard-hitting account of living on minimum wages in present-day America.

Abandoned by her baby’s father, Stephanie takes the only job she can find, working as a cleaner in the North-Western United States. Spending hours in their houses, she begins to get to know the intimate lives of the people she works for. Her memoir tells the story of this new life, scrubbing bathrooms, scraping food off the ceiling of trailers, and becoming an invisible ghost in the houses she cleans

“I felt like I had the opportunity to get to know my clients better than any of their relatives did. I’d learn what they ate for breakfast, what shows they watched, if they’d been sick and for how long. I’d see them, even if they weren’t home, by the imprints left in their beds and tissues on the nightstand. I’d know them in a way few people did. I’d become a nameless ghost.”

Stephanie becomes a kind of detective, imagining her invisible clients and discovering the truth about their marriages. One house, for instance, she nick-names “The Porn House” - the husband and wife sleep apart, each fantasizing about a different partner, a different life.

Her hard-hitting memoir of what it’s like to work as a cleaner for a minimum wage shines a light on all service workers in the modern gig economy. “My job offered no sick pay, no vacation days, no foreseeable increase in wages. Yet through it all, still I begged to work more.”

Written by Stephanie Land
Read by Lanna Joffrey
Abridged and produced by Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Stephanie Land's first-hand account of working as a low wage cleaner in today's America.

Serialised book readings, featuring works from various genres

022019012220190123 (R4)

Lanna Joffrey reads Stephanie Land’s hard-hitting account of living on minimum wages in present-day America.

Abandoned by her baby’s father, Stephanie takes the only job she can find, working as a cleaner in the North-Western United States. Spending hours in their houses, she begins to get to know the intimate lives of the people she works for. Her memoir tells the story of this new life, scrubbing bathrooms, scraping food off the ceiling of trailers, and becoming an invisible ghost in the houses she cleans

“I felt like I had the opportunity to get to know my clients better than any of their relatives did. I’d learn what they ate for breakfast, what shows they watched, if they’d been sick and for how long. I’d see them, even if they weren’t home, by the imprints left in their beds and tissues on the nightstand. I’d know them in a way few people did. I’d become a nameless ghost.”

Stephanie becomes a kind of detective, imagining her invisible clients and discovering the truth about their marriages. One house, for instance, she nick-names “The Porn House” - the husband and wife sleep apart, each fantasizing about a different partner, a different life.

Her hard-hitting memoir of what it’s like to work as a cleaner for a minimum wage shines a light on all service workers in the modern gig economy. “My job offered no sick pay, no vacation days, no foreseeable increase in wages. Yet through it all, still I begged to work more.”

Written by Stephanie Land
Read by Lanna Joffrey
Abridged and produced by Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Stephanie Land's first-hand account of working as a low wage cleaner in today's America.

Serialised book readings, featuring works from various genres

0320190123

Lanna Joffrey reads Stephanie Land’s hard-hitting account of living on minimum wages in present-day America.

Abandoned by her baby’s father, Stephanie takes the only work she can find, and discovers there is no shortage of it.

“One of the great things about a willingness to get on your hands and knees to scrub a toilet is you’ll never have trouble finding work. My job was to wipe away dust and dirt and make lines in carpets, to remain invisible. But it was hard not to be struck by the role I’d taken in my clients’ lives. I was oddly invisible and anonymous. I became a witness.”

In this episode, Stephanie tells the story of the "Sad House", as she names it, where an old man lives alone with the ashes of his dead wife. And despite her willingness to scrub bathrooms and deal with all kinds of human dirt, she faces an assignment which almost breaks her. The job is a "move out" clean for an abandoned trailer, where the kitchen is so encrusted with food that spatters of chilli cover the ceiling. Forced to scrub the shower, she stands in rivers of black mould. And the toilet bowl almost breaks her.

“They don’t pay me enough for this - I yelled it into the trees. I felt disrespected by that toilet, by the man who’d left it in that condition, by the company that paid me minimum wage. But I had no choice. Every single parent teetering on poverty does this. We work, we love, we do. And the stress of it all, the exhaustion, leaves us hollowed. Scraped out. Ghosts of our former selves.”

Written by Stephanie Land
Read by Lanna Joffrey
Abridged and produced by Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Stephanie Land's first-hand account of working as a low wage cleaner in today's America.

Serialised book readings, featuring works from various genres

032019012320190124 (R4)

Lanna Joffrey reads Stephanie Land’s hard-hitting account of living on minimum wages in present-day America.

Abandoned by her baby’s father, Stephanie takes the only work she can find, and discovers there is no shortage of it.

“One of the great things about a willingness to get on your hands and knees to scrub a toilet is you’ll never have trouble finding work. My job was to wipe away dust and dirt and make lines in carpets, to remain invisible. But it was hard not to be struck by the role I’d taken in my clients’ lives. I was oddly invisible and anonymous. I became a witness.”

In this episode, Stephanie tells the story of the "Sad House", as she names it, where an old man lives alone with the ashes of his dead wife. And despite her willingness to scrub bathrooms and deal with all kinds of human dirt, she faces an assignment which almost breaks her. The job is a "move out" clean for an abandoned trailer, where the kitchen is so encrusted with food that spatters of chilli cover the ceiling. Forced to scrub the shower, she stands in rivers of black mould. And the toilet bowl almost breaks her.

“They don’t pay me enough for this - I yelled it into the trees. I felt disrespected by that toilet, by the man who’d left it in that condition, by the company that paid me minimum wage. But I had no choice. Every single parent teetering on poverty does this. We work, we love, we do. And the stress of it all, the exhaustion, leaves us hollowed. Scraped out. Ghosts of our former selves.”

Written by Stephanie Land
Read by Lanna Joffrey
Abridged and produced by Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Stephanie Land's first-hand account of working as a low wage cleaner in today's America.

Serialised book readings, featuring works from various genres

0420190124

Lanna Joffrey reads Stephanie Land’s hard-hitting account of living on minimum wages in present-day America.

Struggling to support her daughter as a single parent, Stephanie takes the only job she can find, as a cleaner. In this moving memoir, she tells the story of the clients she works for - like Wendy, who is dying of cancer.

“Her house was so clean I was often confused why she paid to have me work there. She didn’t seem to get many visitors, and it made me wonder if she put on nice clothes and did her hair for me.”

Stephanie begins to spend more and more time at Wendy’s house, lunching with her on the best china. Finally, the real task is revealed - she’s to help Wendy parcel up all her belongings, ready for her relatives to distribute after her death. But the relationship with Wendy is strangely comforting, too:

“Memories of those afternoons with Wendy reminded me not only that my time was of value, but that even though I was there to clean a toilet or tidy her garden, I had value, too.”

Written by Stephanie Land
Read by Lanna Joffrey
Abridged and produced by Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Stephanie Land's first-hand account of working as a low wage cleaner in today's America.

Serialised book readings, featuring works from various genres

042019012420190125 (R4)

Lanna Joffrey reads Stephanie Land’s hard-hitting account of living on minimum wages in present-day America.

Struggling to support her daughter as a single parent, Stephanie takes the only job she can find, as a cleaner. In this moving memoir, she tells the story of the clients she works for - like Wendy, who is dying of cancer.

“Her house was so clean I was often confused why she paid to have me work there. She didn’t seem to get many visitors, and it made me wonder if she put on nice clothes and did her hair for me.”

Stephanie begins to spend more and more time at Wendy’s house, lunching with her on the best china. Finally, the real task is revealed - she’s to help Wendy parcel up all her belongings, ready for her relatives to distribute after her death. But the relationship with Wendy is strangely comforting, too:

“Memories of those afternoons with Wendy reminded me not only that my time was of value, but that even though I was there to clean a toilet or tidy her garden, I had value, too.”

Written by Stephanie Land
Read by Lanna Joffrey
Abridged and produced by Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Stephanie Land's first-hand account of working as a low wage cleaner in today's America.

Serialised book readings, featuring works from various genres

0520190125

Lanna Joffrey reads Stephanie Land’s hard-hitting account of living on minimum wages in present-day America.

Struggling to support her daughter as a single parent, Stephanie takes the only job she can find, as a cleaner. In this moving memoir, she tells the story of the clients she works for.

“I became fascinated by the things hidden in the dark corners of the houses I cleaned. The snooping was like uncovering clues, finding evidence of the secret lives of people who seemed like they had it all.”

In this final episode, the secret life of the “the Cigarette Lady” is revealed when Stephanie looks into her freezer. And in an attempt to capture the best moments of her life with her young daughter Mia, she begins to write a blog which awakens her ambition to become a writer. Finally, she finds a way to escape this relentless work on a minimum wage, winning a scholarship to the University of Montana.

Written by Stephanie Land
Read by Lanna Joffrey
Abridged and produced by Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Stephanie Land's first-hand account of working as a low wage cleaner in today's America.

Serialised book readings, featuring works from various genres

052019012520190126 (R4)

Lanna Joffrey reads Stephanie Land’s hard-hitting account of living on minimum wages in present-day America.

Struggling to support her daughter as a single parent, Stephanie takes the only job she can find, as a cleaner. In this moving memoir, she tells the story of the clients she works for.

“I became fascinated by the things hidden in the dark corners of the houses I cleaned. The snooping was like uncovering clues, finding evidence of the secret lives of people who seemed like they had it all.”

In this final episode, the secret life of the “the Cigarette Lady” is revealed when Stephanie looks into her freezer. And in an attempt to capture the best moments of her life with her young daughter Mia, she begins to write a blog which awakens her ambition to become a writer. Finally, she finds a way to escape this relentless work on a minimum wage, winning a scholarship to the University of Montana.

Written by Stephanie Land
Read by Lanna Joffrey
Abridged and produced by Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Stephanie Land's first-hand account of working as a low wage cleaner in today's America.

Serialised book readings, featuring works from various genres