Belfast Telegraph

The generation game makes me want to throw in the towel

By Mike Gilson

When I was 19 my father gave me a lesson on how to fold a towel over a handrail. I was back for a few weeks from university and stood before him astonished as he halved it lengthways, dropped it neatly to the middle of the rail and let the other half fall, perfectly matched. It was like a particularly dull challenge on the Generation Game.

At first, I was sure he must be joking to be concerned with such trifles. But he was deadly serious. Days of finding my wet towels crumpled on the bathroom floor had blown his mechanism. I thought it profoundly sad.

So why this day am I thrusting a breakfast bowl encrusted with day-old Shreddies in the direction of my elder son? I pause, remembering the Towel Fold Episode. Can I really be doing this?

But he's been home from university just three days and the house, now an empty nest paragon of order and tranquillity, has been ransacked. God, I'm even exaggerating like my father. But here is the crime sheet. Make your own mind up.

Like muso men of a certain age, I have hundreds of CDs in racks, all with titles facing out, lovingly curated, a testimony to my good taste.

Even as I cross the threshold of the door I have the ability (?), the sixth sense, to feel something is wrong with their karma. Some are missing completely and, oh mother-of-all-misdemeanours, some of the discs lay on the kitchen table without their protective sleeves.

I remember back to the The Strokes Scandal of 07. How I found the New Yorkers' first album in the rack minus its disc after it had been borrowed for downloading and lost. Even now it sits there promising pioneering noughties thin-tie indie rock, but unable to deliver.

Above the music centre, the snack and biscuit cupboard is now full of empty packets, the effort of devouring the contents and putting packets in the bin proving a combination too far. Milk, of course, is curdling on the side just inches from the chilling embrace of the fridge.

All lights are blazing, enough to guide down a 747. Footwear is in the middle of the floor, scattered like those on the Titanic seabed, miles from the order of the shoe rack.

Assorted glasses of variously finished beverages are placed around the place like an art installation. You could probably play Three Blind Mice on them with a spoon.

Of course, towels are mildewing on the floor, but that is a minor consideration. It is the long tail of washing-up stretching around every surface that finally turns me into my dad.

Not really the washing up as such. Of course, it is natural to use up every clean plate and piece of cutlery without recourse to the Fairy Liquid. There's probably another two days' supply. But it is the aforementioned Shreddies bowl which tips the scales.

I mean, have you seen how hard fast to the bowl the remnants of the popular cereal fasten if water is not immediately applied? They're like barnacles on the Mary Rose. They could be used to mend roads, or dams.

I've mentioned this politely before to both sons. But they react like I would have done. Can life really have shrunken to this, they think?

So here I am with bowl in hand as my son turns the corner. Am I really about to enter the arena of the Folded Towel Talk and Demonstration?

Mike Gilson is Editor of the Belfast Telegraph

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