WE took Secondborn back to her student accommodation at the weekend, after she’d enjoyed a good night’s sleep back in her own bed.
Our little cat Xena was most appreciative of The Girl’s brief return, as it meant that she could cosy up to her on a particularly comfortable corner of the duvet in what is the sunniest bedroom in the house.
The Girl has been missing her Memory Foam mattress and quiet room; the cat has been missing the 13-tog duvet.
On Sunday night we trudged across the campus with an assortment of boxes and bags. “It’s just like moving-in day all over again,” commented The Man-in-Charge, who can’t quite understand where all ‘the stuff’ comes from.
Unlike moving-in day, however, the accommodation block was clearly showing signs of being lived in.
We side-stepped a beer can and take-away container on the stairs as The Girl opened her room.
“I think,” I said, faintly, as I surveyed the clothes and towels on the floor; the pans and mixing bowls, shoes and socks, boxes of food and unwashed crockery, “that I’m going to hyperventilate.’’
I would have sat myself down except that there was nowhere to sit that wasn’t covered in ‘stuff’.
“Just put that down and go,” replied Secondborn, crossly. “My room isn’t the worst.” There were mutterings about only OCD students having tidy rooms.
Two days later and I was regaling my friends Cathy and Susan with this tale of woe.
“I very badly wanted to stay and put it all right,” I explained. “I NEEDED to tidy up because I can’t bear to think of her living like that. How will she do her work. It’s just not right.”
They made sympathetic noises and Cathy said she understood, as when she visited her daughter during her first term at university she couldn’t find a clean cup in the room or a place to actually sit that wasn’t completed cluttered up with dishevelled clothes.
There was, she said, “a bit of a scene and lots of shouting”.
Susan, however, says I have to chill and learn to let go. I think she called me “Mrs Control”.
“You should have seen my room when I was an undergraduate,” she said. “No-one could understand how I could come out of it looking so nice.”
And, it has to be said, that she was also a straight A student, with the doctorate to prove it.
It’s not as if our house is control freak tidy. I have spent a lot of time lately considering an extensive programme of cathartic clearing out and cleaning to help me get over my empty nest syndrome. According to the inventor of catharsis, the Greek philosopher Aristotle, the cathartic purging of the emotions is best achieved by exposure to art and poetry. I will have to make do with cupboards.
I lie in bed at night and try to decide what needs my attention the most. Will it be the wardrobe with my evening dresses (which sounds grand but isn’t, as some of them were last worn in 1976) and the boxes of Action Men? Should the Action Men have their own section of the attic and the dresses be given to charity, or the other way around?
The Man-in-Charge has been having similar thoughts and made a start on the DVD cupboard in the living room.
In the end I helped him and we now have a neat and orderly library of movies and boxed sets. I find it oddly pleasing to open the door and survey the contents. If only every cupboard in our house had that feel good factor.
Inspired by the DVDs I had a go at the cupboard under the sink, a place where our slops bucket is kept and mice droppings have been found (this is a source of great irritation as we have four cats).
The Man-in-Charge came home from work just as I was extracting several hundred carrier bags from an Ikea gadget designed to hold about 20.
The rest of the afternoon was spent watching episodes of Stargate 1, Neighbours and Strictly Come Dancing. I brushed the rabbit, did the crossword and managed a bit of light ironing.
There was, I decided, only so much purging and soul-cleansing I could manage in one day. And, anyway, what I’d really like to get my hands on is Secondborn’s student room.