The mystery of the exploding crisp packets

The cleaner sounds as though he’s about to burst into tears on the phone.

‘This is just not normal,’ he says in a trembling voice. ‘It is one big mess.’ Only yesterday, he had mopped the stairs of all 15 floors. Reluctantly, I get on my bike. I can think of nicer ways to start the day, but off we go.

On arrival I see the cleaner was not exaggerating. The stairway at Hoevestein is full of empty beer cans and it looks as though packets of every possible flavour of crisps have exploded here. You have to keep moving about, otherwise you stick to the beer and wine stains on the floor.

Saving pandas

At moments like this I do sometimes wonder why I took a job as caretaker at Idealis student accommodation last year. When I was a student at Wageningen I would have considered it likelier that I would start menstruating than that I would ever work for Idealis. I lived at Droevendaal and, as an MSc student of Forest and Nature Conservation, I envisaged quite a different future for myself. I thought I would be conserving the rainforests, saving pandas from extinction, and ultimately saving the world with my knowledge. The reality: since graduating I have looked after great tits, built ponds, worked in a herbarium, inspected trees, supervised refugees and been a tour guide. After leading a wonderful mountain bike tour of Kirgizstan, I found myself broke. A friend emailed me the vacancy for a caretaker. The rent needed paying and I thought working with students would be fun. I decided to give the caretaker job a go.


Instead of saving the world, my duties now include finding out who used the stairwell as a party venue last night and ‘forgot’ to clean up afterwards. All the different hats I have to wear – those of a policeman, a social worker, and an agony aunt – are what I like about this job. Today I’m a detective and I won’t sleep until I have solved the mystery of the exploding crisp packets…

Christoph Janzing is a caretaker with Idealis. He writes about his experiences for Resource. This is his first story.

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