In the mid-80s, John Mortimer’s Paradise Postponed told the story of the rise of a working-class politician. Being a twenty-something at the time, the routineness of the life described made me smile. Leslie Titmuss, the rising star describes his home life:
‘I went to the village school,’ he told them. ‘Then I got a scholarship to Hartscombe Grammar. Weekends I used to go out on my bike and help people with their gardens. I grew up to understand the value of money because it took my father five years to save up for our first second-hand Ford Prefect. Every night he finishes his tea and says to my mother, “Very tasty, dear. That was very tasty.” He always says the same thing. He falls asleep in front of the fire at exactly half past nine and at ten-thirty he wakes up with a start and says, “I’ll lock up, dear. Time for Bedfordshire!” Always the same. Every night. Just as he got to work at exactly the same time every morning for forty years.
Could any person in real life be as predictable as George Titmuss? Surely, real life could not be so routine? Surely, there would be variety and difference.
Having walked the two dogs to the same point as every night, I returned to make the hot chocolate in the same mug as each night. Once the hot chocolate was drunk, it would be time to lock the doors, and to give the dogs the Bonio they have each night for their supper. Then it would be time to go to bed, setting the alarm for 7 am; it being summer holidays, a half hour lie in is permissible.
Pouring the hot water, I realized I had become George Titmuss. The nightly routine is repeated each and every night; occasionally, there might be an evening out, but the repetition of the same things and the same words had about it a reassuring quality.
People who have lost loved ones have sometimes said that it is not the special occasions they most miss, it is the ordinary, daily routines.
Perhaps being a creature of habit is boring; alternatively, perhaps it is about being secure, about being content with life with its gentle rhythms and familiar patterns.
Perhaps there are far worse people in life that one might become than gentle, dull and inoffensive George Titmuss.