My Covid oxygen tent is not for sharing

My Covid oxygen tent is causing a stir

If Howard Hughes were alive he’d want to spend Lock Down in my covid oxygen tent. Hughes was a billionaire businessman who had a phobia about germs, which is why he wore tissue boxes instead of shoes and insisted his valet wrapped his hands in paper towels when serving him food. Covid-19 would be his worse fear which is why he would have he’d loved my oxygen tent which my brother-in-law lent us just before lock down.

Hughes would have admired our household cleaning regime, which is probably unmatched for rigour outside of an hospital ITU. Complacent cobwebs, which thought they had squatters’ rights, have been snuffled up by the handheld vacuum with a snout like an anteater. I clean the windows so they sparkle like Meghan Markle and I disinfect the dishcloths daily and so the regime is complete I have doused the cat with flea drops which is probably why he has run away, disgusted we think so poorly of his hygiene.

I think about Howard Hughes as I work my brush around the toilet bowls of our home. My task today is to get them spick and span. I’ve created a mantra which is ‘If it’s not good enough for Howard, it’s not good enough for me.’ It reminds me of the standards I need to aspire to. It’s my chore mantra. Without it, I could easily settle for second best and give into the siren song of the TV and the sofa.

I came up with the mantra – ‘If it’s not good enough for Howard, it’s not good enough for me’ – last night as I was talking to my daughter. We discussing my wife’s plan to battle the germs the next day. She had assigned us all roles for the assault on our common enemy Covid-19.

I’ve been told to clean the bogs

‘Dad’s Head of the Bog Squad,’ said my son.

‘Am I?’

‘Well, you can’t expect me to do the loos. I’m putting up with enough shit as it is. What with not being able to go to school and see my friends.’

‘Can I be Head of Ironing?’ asks Mother.

‘Of course. Never in doubt,’ says my wife. ‘I’m putting on an overnight wash to ensure that there’s a full load ready and waiting for you in the morning.’

‘I think mum’s acting like Florence Nightingale,’ says daughter.

‘We should call her the ‘Lady of the Listerine’,’ I say.

The conversation stalls. The joke hasn’t landed.

‘Why does he always have to try to be funny?’ asks my daughter.

‘It’s his way of…. Actually, I don’t know what it is his way of doing. He just does it,’ says my wife.

I remind my son of the Play That Went Wrong

My son looks at me.

‘You are like the ‘Play That Goes Wrong‘. You’re only funny when you’re not meant to be,’ he says.

As Head of Ironing, Mother feels she has the status to offer her insight.

‘His father couldn’t take things seriously for long either. Underneath it all, I think it’s a psychological problem. It’s safer playing the clown. It’s a defensive mechanism.’

I worry my wife is spending so much time absorbing Mother’s point so I try to think of something funny to say which will move the conversation on but this would simply prove my Mother’s point. With a Mother like this, who needs a psychoanalyst?

‘Can I stay in the oxygen tent tonight?’ asks my son.

‘I think your father deserves it more, don’t you?’ says my wife.


‘Because it will soundproof the rest of us from his snoring.’

Published by Man in the Middle

Ecce Man in the Middle. The stale meat in the inter-generational sandwich.