I have a confession to make. I am a touch obsessive.
‘A touch!!’ I hear my friends (and family) cry. ‘You’re a bloody weirdo!’
I would refute that.
I do admit, however, to having certain routines and practices that I feel compelled to adhere to. To other people, these odd habits might appear eccentric/peculiar/flakey/cockeyed/wacky – all of those adjectives plucked from of Roget’s (God bless him) Thesaurus.
One could argue that my strange little ways have something of an OCD element.
But thankfully, my idiosyncratic, albeit harmless, ‘strange little ways’ don’t especially impinge on my life as they do with many sufferers who are afflicted by OCD. Sadly, those people’s lives can be severely affected and controlled by that pernicious condition.
No, my little quirks oddly bring an inexplicable sense of order in my life. I say ‘oddly’ because if I didn’t follow these plainly senseless routines it would not make a jot of difference in my day-to-day living.
But it does.
For example, when I unload the dishwasher (an appliance we shall come back to) and place the tea and coffee mugs in the tea and coffee mug cupboard, each handle must not only face the same way, the handle has to be at an angle of 45 degrees (0.7854 radian).
No reason. It just pleases me.
Not only must the handle angle be correct, there is a particular place in the tea and coffee mug cupboard for each mug.
The Mister Men mugs – and the Miss mugs, I add quickly at this gender conscious time – must all sit on the top shelf in a row. Colour coordinated of course!
Second shelf down, on the left as you look at the tea and coffee mug cupboard, go my two favourite mugs, Foxy Lady & Dandy Lion. Two elegant mugs and a pleasure to drink from.
Next to them sits the ‘Daddy Rules’ mug, a gift from my younger daughter when she was very much younger.
Then comes the ‘Tea Meister’ mug, another gift from way back. Followed by two not so way back gifts, the ‘Grandma & Grandpa’ mugs. (Not pictured, they’re in the dishwasher.)
Third shelf down: all the plain white Ikea mugs.
And on the bottom shelf, some rather nice cups that were a gift when I took part in the Henley Literary Festival a few years ago.
And that, for me, is the way every the mug and cup must be arranged when they go from dishwasher to cupboard.
I say ‘must’ but of course, it’s a nonsense. They can go anywhere in the cupboard, on any shelf, in any order. Who cares?
I do! It’s a ‘must’ when I do it.
When some other helpful person unloads the dishwasher, namely the lynch-pin of Laytonia, my darling wife Moya, she puts them back anywhere. All over the shop. Higgeldy-Piggeldy.
Mr. Noisy mug on the bottom shelf, handle facing the wrong way! For goodness sake! Little Miss Naughty on her own in next to Foxy Lady on the 3rd shelf!! Mr. Tickle up close to Dandy Lion on the top shelf!!! Mr Cool not looking at all ‘Cool’ next to little Tea Meister!!!! Daddy Rules mug upside down!!!!! Unbelievable! To cap it off, the Henley Literary Festival cups randomly all over the place!!!!!!
It’s all so wrong. It’s like a dagger to my heart. And it is all totally incomprehensible.
I can’t think of another person who would open a higgeldy-piggeldy cupboard and say “My goodness, look at all these mug and cups, all over the place”.
Even Moya has no idea of this odd, slightly obsessive quirk. I doubt that in our near 44 years of marriage and 3 years of sinful co-habiting, she has ever noticed my tea and coffee mug cupboard obsession and how I surreptitiously I rearrange Mr. Noisy, Little Miss Naughty, Foxy Lady et al, without her noticing.
Back to the dishwasher. This is precisely why I am the helpful hubby always offering to unload the dishwasher.
‘I’ll unload the dishwasher, darling. You go and put your feet up.’
There is not one iota of generosity or altruism in this hollow gesture. It is because I want to be in control of the tea and coffee mug cupboard. It’s my curious obsession.
And don’t get me on the subject of loading the dishwasher! We’ve been there before, in the early days of lockdown when I was writing for The Telegraph. Well documented in ‘Layton on Lockdown’ 21st. April 2020.
Dishwasher loading is not an obsession. It is just good, sensible dishwasher-loading etiquette, conducive to a better dishwasher cycle result.
It is, however, one of the few areas of contention that can lead to a frosty atmosphere in Laytonia. Sometimes bordering on Artic conditions.
I take my life in my hands if I interfere with Moya’s (dare I say) pathetic dishwasher loading technique.
Having said that these curious ways of mine don’t impinge on my life, I used to have some irritatingly illogical routines when I was working in the theatre that invariably backfired. I would say though, that these were more related to superstition, something that actors are prone to, rather than my ‘normal’ obsessive behaviour.
When I was appearing in the West End, for example, I would always drive to work. I’m going back to those halcyon pre-Congestion Charge days when parking was a doddle and nothing was more pleasurable than coming out of the Stage Door and heading off in the comfort of one’s car.
Going home from the Palladium, the Albery or the Adelphi, theatres that I have had the pleasure of working in, I would drive any which way.
Up Charing Cross Road, through Camden Town. Occasionally via Marylebone and through Regents’ Park. Sometimes I’d go along Regent Street, especially if it was around the festive season and I would enjoy the Christmas lights. I would ring the changes as I drove homeward-bound, winding down from that evening’s performance.
But going to work was a different matter. I had to drive to the theatre the same way every evening.
Obsession or superstition? Who knows? I had to take the same route. It was a compulsion that sometimes had disastrous consequences.
If my ritual route to the theatre was hindered by an unexpected ‘road closed’ sign, I would convince myself that this did not apply to me. It simply couldn’t apply to me. This was my route, this was the way I went. This was the way I had to go every night.
I would ignore a ‘road closed’ or any diversion sign. I would stubbornly drive my habitual route and end up having to reverse, find another way, drive myself out of trouble, all the while cursing myself for being such an idiot. I would finally arrive at the theatre in a frazzled state, grateful for finding any route I could.
You will not be surprised to learn that I did wean myself away from this futile ritual but not without a great deal of superstitious angst.
There is one last form of obsessive behaviour I have to own up to.
Actually, ‘own up to’ is wrong. Own is more appropriate. And proudly own at that!
I am, and always have been, an obsessive hand washer – and I am talking pre- Coronavirus.
It is impossible to quantify (if that’s the right word) the number of times I wash my hands every day.
Before a pee, possibly unnecessary.
After a pee, essential. Though I am appalled from my limited market research in men’s urinals at the number of guys who don’t.
I wash my hands when I arrive home. I wash my hands after reading the newspaper. I wash my hands before I eat. (You’d be surprised how many people aren’t bothered.)
I actively enjoy washing my hands.
Whenever we are invited to other people homes – and this has always been the case, way before Covid – after the customary hellos, I always ask our host where is the loo, so that I can go and wash my hands.
Moreover, because ‘Can wash my hands?’ is a euphemism for ‘Can I use the toilet?’ I inexplicably feel the need to explain to my host in detail, that I really do mean I only want to wash my hands, not actually go to the toilet. (Shades of Larry David?)
Pre-Covid, this made me a figure of fun among those who were familiar with my Lady Macbeth predilection. During this wretched pandemic however, lo and behold, I am suddenly ‘normal’. I consider myself a pioneer!
Years ago, back in the mists of mid-50’s time, I remember a television show called “State Your Case”. The premise, as I vaguely recall, was that a legal argument was presented to a studio jury on behalf of a member of the public with a money prize at stake.
Prosecution and defense counsels would argue the merits of the case on behalf the plaintiff and the strap line at the end of each show was something like:
“Now Over To The Jury – The Decision Is Yours”
Well, confession time over, I have stated my case. Over to you.
Bonkers or not? Weirdo or what? Phobic or practical? Obsessive or realistic?
THE DECISION IS YOURS!
No, it’s not!
From Monday 14th September, only 6 people can meet together. In England, that group of 6 includes children of any age.
So, when it comes to visiting our younger daughter, hubby, twins and older brother, only myself or Grandma (rightly known as Glam-Ma) can visit.
You know who will be going, of course! And it’s nonsensical. When Moya comes back home from visiting the kids, we’ll be snuggling up together in the marital bed.
Unless of course, I’ll be self-isolating in the spare room after Glam-Ma has caught me reloading the dishwasher!!