Idle hands

My mother spent the day supervising my nephews in the tidying of their room. Twelve and thirteen years old, they are still at an age where they will do as their grandmother bids them.

Even if the room had been in perfect order, my mother would have found a cause for it to be tidied: it was always thus. I remember childhood days when a day would have been set aside for tidying bedrooms. My problem was the sheer volume of stuff that I kept. “Stuff” is the only word adequate to cover the contents of my room, I accumulated entirely random items because I would not have wished for them to be thrown away. Even broken things were retained because I always felt that there might be a possibility of them being fixed.

The tidying has always reflected a deep underlying philosophy that the devil makes work for idle hands. Even if one did not believe in the devil, the desire to keep busy is not a bad one, there is a lot of therapy in being occupied doing something.

In the middle of the second week of the school holidays, there is a certain feeling of envy for my nephews. To be occupied in doing something tactile which has visible results is a satisfying experience.

I was never good at taking holidays. In my parish ministry I would have taken a month off each summer, counting down the weeks from one summer holiday until the next. When I went on holiday, it would never live up to the eleven months of anticipation and I would become depressed at being at a loose end.

Busyness has become a panacea for all ills. To be doing something means to be active and to be unworried by anything else that might be happening. Each morning, I log into my computer and check to see if any students have sent me any work. Although it is the school holidays, the lockdown has caused some of them to decide to work on. There were twelve pieces of work that came in on Monday, reading over them made for a pleasant hour.

There is a feeling of reassurance in the fact that Gloucestershire County Council allows people to keep working until the age of seventy-five. It means that,  as long as I can stay fit, I can work for another fifteen years. Given that my grandmother lived until the age of ninety-four, it is possible that my mother, who will be ninety-eight when I am seventy-five, will still be standing and giving instructions about tidiness.


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