Sitting across from me on the leather armchair Tom covers his eyes and says, “Oh no, I don’t think I can watch this” turning his head away from the screen and towards me.
I have a small keyboard on my lap trying to work out the chords to Abba’s “The Winner Takes It All” while I laugh at his discomfort.
Tom has always needed to have certain things just so. This evening we are watching a TV show in which a couple has renovated a beautiful chateau in the French countryside turning it into a high-class wedding venue.
Measuring up for new flagstones at the front of the property they discover the whole building is not quite square. This sort of inaccuracy drives my son mad.
After he’d finished school before he got a job he used to clean the house when Paula, the most magical cleaner you could ever imagine, selfishly left to go back to Portugal. He was almost as good as her so particular is he with detail.
I once watched him clean dried on dough from the smallest crevices of the stand mixer with a toothpick.
“It’s very satisfying cleaning the kitchen because there’s always a fine layer of flour on everything,” he told me once.
Whenever this aspect of Tom’s character is drawn into focus I tell him, “You’re definitely your mother’s son”.
I’ve thought a lot about perfectionism over the years, confronted as I so often am with people whose lives are impaired or even destroyed by it. Mostly I concluded that it’s never played much of a role in my own life even though I seem to be surrounded by people for whom it matters a great deal.
Once I tormented my children by showing them my wallet with all the banknotes folded untidily until they insisted I got them out and sorted them properly.
My friend Martin is disgusted that my album collection is not ordered alphabetically and that some of the records end up in the wrong sleeves.
It all made me laugh because it struck me as so insignificant.
Back at the chateau, Tom has pushed through his discomfort as the paving is laid in an ordered and symmetrical way.
“What are you doing anyway?” He said
“I’m trying to work out a song for the end of this week’s podcast,” I tell him.
“I’ve been working on it since this morning. Ridiculous really because I’ve spent much longer messing about with this than I did editing the podcast itself.”