As the distinguished Russian novelist Leo Toyboy has so eloquently written "All happy families are happy in broadly and identifiably similar ways, whilst unhappy families generally find a unique way in which to make other family members miserable to the point of Chekovian suicide" [Anna Karinthekomunity]. The distinguished Norwegian playwright and world-record mile runner  Henrik Ibbotson said much the same [Get Me the Herbs Elliott [White City Playhouse, 1959]] only in four acts rather than 10,000 pages. Each gives the modern day family psychotherapist much to ponder.
The access to no fault divorce, the loosening of church strictures, the rise of television, the weakening of established authority, the Beatles, sellotape, gummy bears, affordable gym membership, flexible banking hours, the Lady Chatterley trials and the abolition of the tap room [it had all but disappeared in Dorset by the late 1980s] - each had their own inexorable and cumulatively damaging effect on family structure and, more critically, family cohesion. How could any mother, father and 2.4 possibly witness the social, moral and intellectual revolution of the past five decades and survive in tacto? It is a good question and one which has given the modern day family psychotherapist much to ponder.
Take for example the recently discovered evidence in a Batcombe house that fluff, possibly containing "Mother's hair" [NB the original capitalisation - this is no generic mother], had been found under a bed in the spare room. To many this naive diary-like entry by a young schoolboy might seem innocuous; a small and insignificant observation by a male child increasingly aware of his circumstances and his own maturing body. But to a child psychotherapist, it raises intriguing and potentially sinister questions: Why is the adored - even idolised - Mother losing her hair? Age, stress, restraint, physical abuse, over-use of Chemico in the bathtub? Why is it to be found in the spare bedroom? A place of refuge, a site of abandonment/mistreatment, a neglected functionless space not unlike the now barren marriage bed? Why is it there at all? Is mother becoming lazy, slovenly, neglectful, depressed [often themselves signs of domestic disharmony] or is the family now in such reduced circumstances that no outside cleaning help can be sought? Why does the boy capitalise Mother? To emphasise that she is (or he believes her to be) his real mother and that "the other woman" father regularly brings home from the Rat and Trumpet is not? We speculate of course. But as child or family psychotherapists - and quite unlike the curtain-twitching neighbours to whom we are often unfavourably compared - we speculate with a degree [First Class Hons, University of Affpuddle 2014, £12,000 sandwich-based lunches/courses included].
And - to the experienced analyst - this poignant if painful vignette offers yet another layer of significance on which further speculation [or to give it its technical term "analysis"] can be built. For this is no ordinary family, or rather this is an ordinary family operating in extraordinary circumstances, or rather this is an extraordinary family facing quite ordinary circumstances [1940s post-War pre-Drexit Dorset]. Have it how you will. This, let us remember, is the Thrupiece family; perhaps the most well-known family in the whole of the West Country and already by 1946, the family to which many aspirational nuclear-units looked up in hope and admiration. And yet here amidst the social nexus and support system that was to breed and nurture a scientific genius and which was to come to represent in the public's mind the perfect family, the model family, the much-to-be-wished-for ideal - there is a cleaning issue, there is misery and there is neglect!
So, you are bound to ask - if violence, nightly domestic abuse, infidelity and poor cleaning habits, can infest a family as celebrated and cherished as the Thrupieces - as a member of an ordinary, run-of-the-mill, bog-standard, everyday insignificant family with no guaranteed access to a Bex-Bissell what earthly chance do I stand ?
It is this questions and others like it that occupy the waking day of a psychotherapist whose job it is to map social trends, understand social dynamics, offer social insights and generally interfere where our outrageous speculations are neither wanted not required. It is this, together with the £50 per 20 minute session, for which we train and to which we return from our second homes in the delightful village of Askerswell.
Are you conscious of unidentifiable fluff under the bed in your spare room and worried about the potentially catastrophic impact it will inevitably have on your family? Why not avoid a tragedy already in the making by looking in your local Yellow Pages today and running your fingers down the columns under either Psychotherapists or Domestic Cleaners. You know it makes sense, even if we don't. Minimum charges apply. [And boy do they! Ed]