Tidy Is As Tidy Does

Dobson was an excessively tidy man. He firmly believed the old saw which insists there is a place for everything, and everything in its place. Thus, he kept sweets in jars, and jars on shelves in cupboards. This despite his loathing of confectionery. When asked why he stored so many sweets, including humbugs, toffees and jammy teardrops, in labelled jars on labelled shelves in labelled cupboards, Dobson blustered and tried to change the subject.

“Oh look,” he might say, pointing out of the window, “A mother shrike with her shrikelets,” or “What would you say were the chief causes of the Boxer Rising?” In the latter example, he would not bother pointing out the window, but might furrow his brow, as if he had been pondering the topic for some time.

This sneaky yet transparent technique worked surprisingly often. Few people, other than Marigold Chew, felt confident enough in the pamphleteer’s presence to challenge Dobson. The explanation for this lies not in any personal magnetism or force of personality. In fact, for the life of me I cannot think why he got away with his preposterous behaviour.

Cutlery alignment in cutlery drawers was another type of tidiness which exercised the great man. At particularly fraught times he was known to align and realign the cutlery in the cutlery drawer ten times an hour. Sometimes he would be halfway along the path to the pond to commune with swans, then turn on his heel and stamp back into the house to attend to the knives and forks. Nowadays, of course, some pop psychologist would make a television documentary asserting that Dobson suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder, but I think we can safely reject such a notion. It is not as if he was washing his hands every five minutes, or going doolally at the sight of glitter. Indeed, he ought probably to have washed his hands more often. They were invariably ink-splattered and grubby in other ways, particularly if he had been down by the pond with the swans. No, I think we can rely on Dobson’s own account of the cutlery issue, which he addressed in a pamphlet entitled Keeping Cutlery Aligned Tidily In The Cutlery Drawer As An Absolute Imperative If One Aspires To Be Fully Human (out of print). For reasons I need not go into here, hardly anybody has ever bothered to read this middle-period work. The prose is clogged and clunky, the views expressed idiotic, and when typesetting it Marigold Chew chose so tiny a font that the average reader needs an extremely powerful magnifying glass to decipher the text.

Oh, forgive me, I just went into the reasons why hardly anybody has ever bothered to read this middle-period work. Dobson would ascribe that little slip to the fact that the cutlery in my cutlery drawers is chaotic and askew. Am I not, then, fully human? And if not, what am I? Partly ape? Perhaps I would be able to answer those questions if I myself had read the pamphlet, but I confess I have not done so. My eyesight is not up to it. I could, perhaps, employ some bright-eyed literate youngster to read it to me, a perky little brainbox uncowed by Latin tags and arcane references and paragraphs that go on and on and on for twelve pages or more, by clogged and clunky prose and idiotic views, but where would I find such a creature? I suppose I could take a stroll in the rain down to the nearest community hub, but that would be the act of a desperate man. Better by far, surely, either to accept my semi-human status, to give vent to my inner ape and to stuff my face with bananas and nuts, or conversely to go and align the cutlery in the cutlery drawer with Dobsonian precision and thus destroy the ape that lurks within me. It is a simple choice, and one I shall not shirk from making.

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