I’m reading a rather interesting memoir at the moment: Mike Steeden’s ‘An Only Child and his Mum’s Amazing Germ Phobia‘. I’ll be able to write more about this book when I’ve finished it, but so far what Mr Steeden says is very similar to what I had to cope with whilst growing up.

I was an only child too, and Mum had an obsessive/compulsive desire to clean and tidy the house. This was probably due to her own mother never bothering to do much housework at all throughout the whole of her lifetime. I’ve shared an extract below from my memoir ‘Waiting in the Wings‘ which kind of sums up my mother’s obsession with tidiness:

Extract from Chapter 16 of ‘Waiting in the Wings’ by Stevie Turner

‘What teenager doesn’t like to stay in bed all morning at weekends and surface around mid-day?  I am no exception to this rule, but unfortunately Dot always makes sure that I never remain in bed past 8 o’clock on a Saturday or a Sunday.

“Come on, get up; I want to make the bed.”

Dot’s preference for everything in the house to be neat and tidy includes me.  After 07:30 passes I can sense her agitation as she constantly checks if I am up or not.  I know that by 8 o’clock she would have lost any patience that she might have had.

“I’ll make the bed when I get up.”  I mumble from beneath the covers.

“No; I need to tidy the bed now.” Dot pulls off the eiderdown. “Your breakfast is ready.”

It is the normal routine every weekend.  Dot is a light sleeper and an early riser, and living with my mother as I do it is impossible for me to be anything else but the same.

Reluctantly I force myself out of bed and head for the bathroom, knowing full well what Dot’s parting shot will be before I close the door.

“Don’t sit on the toilet seat; I’ve just polished it.”

Obediently I lift the toilet seat, which is shiny and slippery with polish.  I have become so used to sitting on the under-seat of the toilet that to actually sit on the seat itself feels alien and uncomfortable to me.  After cleaning my teeth I leave the top of the toothpaste off, do not wipe around the sink and taps as Dot does every time she washes her hands, and throw any dirty laundry into the basket from a distance, thereby making sure that some of it fails to hit the target.

When it is time to get dressed I pick through the pile of clothes at the bottom of my wardrobe which have fallen onto the floor.  This sartorial mountain is a constant source of irritation to my mother, who berates me several times a day to hang them up properly.  I actually prefer my dresses, tops and trousers to be in a big pile as they are more accessible, and rage against the fact that my mother’s clothes are neatly hung in seasonal and colour co-ordinated magnificence in one of four huge wardrobes.  I am sick of having to be tidy, and am in chronic rebellion of Dot’s OCD behaviour when it comes to tidiness and cleanliness.’

As an only child I carried a heavy burden. I was the apple of my mother’s eye, and the focus of much of her attention apart from the state of her pristine home. She dreamed big for me; the list of future jobs I could do sadly outweighed my capabilities. I tried to learn how to play the guitar, and immediately had to perform my few basic chords for relatives who must have been stupendously unimpressed at the time.

I rebelled against the constant need to be tidy. This has resulted in Sam not even bothering to try and put anything in our kitchen cupboards, because as soon as he opens the doors things tend to fall out. I say it’s ‘homely’. He says the kitchen cupboards are in a terrible state. I invite him to tidy them up, but when push comes to shove, he can’t be bothered either. Therefore we live in cosy untidiness. My mother would turn in her grave.

Philip Larkin was right when he wrote that wonderful poem about how your parents f**k you up. Perhaps he was an only child too?

I can really identify with Mr Steeden’s childhood issues. I am absolutely enjoying his book!