IF HOUSEWORK is the new rock and roll, I'll sit this dance out, thank you all the same. TV shows such as How Clean is Your House? - to which the answer is invariably "not at all" - go on and on and whole newspaper columns devoted to how to polish the silver or make a bed indicate that those who ordain such things have decided housework is the topic of the moment.

A life which is, as Superwoman Shirley Conran famously claimed, "too short to stuff a mushroom" is most certainly far too short to spend any more of it than absolutely vital on housework.

In fact, I'd rather stuff a mushroom. I like stuffed mushrooms.

Our silver is stored away and brought out and polished when it's needed. That takes time, but not as much as the regular cleaning of silverware "on show" adds up to.

The advent of the duvet brought not only comfort to a double bed containing two people with opposing personal thermostats but also an end to flat bottom sheets, hospital corners and shaking and smoothing several layers every day. But that is so yesterday. To be up with the trendsetters we must return to sheets, blankets and a counterpane. And to him heaving the covers off and a shivering me hauling them back on? No thanks.

It doesn't stop there. The perfectionist - and I find this hard to believe - will iron the side of the (pure cotton) sheet next to the sleeper's skin and also iron it from the top to the bottom for super-smoothness. Mind you, that bit of advice also included the words: "If you do your own washing..." If? Oh, come back to this planet. Reading about, or watching, housework has far more entertainment value than doing it. Looking at the squalor of some of the homes explored, we can feel a teeny bit smug about our own, obviously higher, standards while someone else sorts out the mess. And gets paid a sight more for it than any cleaning lady.

Housework is like threading beads without a knot on the string. Everything we do will soon be undone by home life. Remember, kitchens and bathrooms must be kept clean, but elsewhere can wait if we'd rather garden or cook or sew, phone a friend or write a letter. The dust will still be there when conscience sends us to deal with it. No-one else in the household will have noticed it. If visitors look for dust, it's only courteous to leave some for them to find, but I have a long-standing agreement with my friends that I won't run my finger along their sideboards if they leave mine alone. Luckily, I still have fireplaces downstairs because the best bit of advice I was ever given on housework was that, if the fireplace, mantelpiece and anything on it were clean and shining, no-one would notice the rest of the room. Add a vase of fresh flowers on the table and pretend you're really house proud.