WHEN I make a mess, I don't do it by halves. I make a MESS, a spectacular, wotsit-to-breakfast-time job.

So, when the cooking oil bottle exploded, it was a thoroughgoing clart.

It wasn't your average litre of cooking oil but one of those plastic pump-and-spray specimens holding less than half that and so useful for greasing baking tins and trays. I was in the middle of a coffee-morning cake stall marathon.

No doubt it was my fault. Maybe the oil had been hanging around in it a mite too long. May be I should have registered, busy as I was, that the pump action didn't feel normal. Certainly I shouldn't have jolted it, even if it was an accident.

It went off like a small bomb. Given that it was less than half full, there was an awful lot of escaped oil - pools all over the kitchen floor; splashes on every cupboard door.

Even worse, the door to the rear lobby had been open and in the direct line of major fire. Like all such lobbies, it's a bit of a dumping ground, too.

There was oil on the floor, the welly boot cupboard, the freezer, the washer, the wall cupboards, the gardening jackets, the paper waiting for the salvage collection and on all the bottles, jars, boxes and general grot which had silted up on every flat surface.

We mopped up what we could, put newspaper down to blot up any remaining slipperiness on the floor and got on with life (and baking) until 36 hours later.

As everyone who's ever made the mistake will know, it's impossible to wipe a mark off a kitchen (or lobby) wall. Granted the mark goes, but so does a wipe's worth of the surrounding skim of gunge and the clean bit shows just how sadly the whole area cries out to be done.

Surveying the battle scene in the lobby, it was obvious everything movable would have to move for a complete wash down with detergent and borax.

How did oil get on the ceiling? How, indeed, did the one missing bit of the exploding bottle end up in a box right at the back of the welly-cupboard worktop, nestling among old net curtain ("it'll do over the rasps" but never did), a cat-grooming mitten (unused, she swore and fled) and a timer plug still in its packet ("good heavens, that's where it went")?

Next door's mog stuck his head through the cat-flap, surveyed the chaos and decided our house wasn't his usual refuge from Sunday lunch visitors and their dog. Our cat, typically, waited until I was trying to cook lunch for us and our visitor, with a kitchen full of lobby gear waiting until floor and surfaces were dry, before she came and sat under my feet.

Next time, no matter how busy I am, it'll be quicker in the long run to grease my tins and trays with those butter and margarine papers I keep so carefully in a box in the fridge. Old-fashioned and more fiddly they may be, but they're guaranteed not to explode.

Ah well, at least that's one bit of spring-cleaning done, even if it was by accident.