The dogs have been walked – now it’s BBC 1 for Countryfile and then Wallander at 9.00. In former times, such predictability would have been a source of amusement; there would have been vows never to have become so dull, never to have been so domesticated as to know the TV schedule.
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 up to go to work at exactly the same time every morning for forty years.
‘Could any person in real life be as predictable as George Titmuss’?’ I thought. Surely, real life could not be so routine? Surely, there would be variety and difference. By the time I had been in a job for forty years, life would be unrecognizable from what it had been in the earlier times.
Realizing I had become a George Titmuss, in two-thirds of the time he took, was not the troubling thought it would once have seemed. The repetition of the same things and the same words has 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; for centuries people lived lives entirely governed by the rhythm of the agricultural year and no-one thought less of them for it. Perhaps there are far worse people in life that one might become than gentle, dull and inoffensive George Titmuss.