My Mother-In-Law… and the Towel Obsession

Rule no 1 of the blog: Never write about the mother-in-law.

Rule no 2: If you are thinking about writing about the mother-in-law, refer to rule no 1.

Rule no 3: If you really are hellbent on writing about the mother-in-law, make it light-hearted and humorous, and on no account mention behaviours that could be deemed obsessive or eccentric…

I think my mother-in-law has developed an obsession with towels.

I’ve been observing her growing abundance of towels for some years now. But it was only on a recent visit to the in-law’s house that the full scale of her towel-hoarding frenzy was revealed.

As I plonked my weekend bag down in the spare room, the mother-in-law said, ‘I’ve left some towels out for you… but if you need any more, there’s plenty in the spare bathroom.’


This comment in itself was slightly concerning. There were already four towels on the bed – beautifully matched to the decor. Just how many towels did she think we’d get through in two nights?

In the en-suite, there was another pile of colour-coordinated towels neatly stacked.


Out of curiosity, I headed to the main bathroom to see the state of play. I flung the large cupboard doors open to reveal…


… many, many more spare towels – in every possible colour you can imagine.

It was a petsetaphobic’s worst nightmare (that’s someone with a deep-seated fear of towels btw).

Glancing around, I spotted even more towels, nestling in neat piles.


In total, there were 37 spare towels at my disposal.

I’ve come to the conclusion that my mother-in-law collects towels like one might collect stamps or thimbles.

But I’m not sure how you would wean yourself off a fixation with towels. Cut down on the trips to Dunelm Mill? Steer clear of the towel aisle in old Johnny Lewis? Wean oneself off gradually with say the purchase of a large bath sheet, rather than a whole ‘nest’ (incidentally, who ever really wants a ‘nest’ of towels? There’s always at least two towels in there of an indeterminable size – too small to dry one’s body and too big to pass off as a hand towel.)

As far as addictions go, I think my mother-in-law’s love of towels (petsetaphilia?) is pretty harmless.

At my parents’ house, you’re lucky if you get handed a bobbly old towel, which is usually the size of a postage stamp and as stiff as cardboard (owing to the fact that they don’t believe in costly tumble dryers).

So who I am to turn down a fluffy towel or two – or even 37?

The Battle of the Sun-Beds

The Germans are often the butt of the joke when it comes to reserving sun-loungers with their towels.

And whilst I hate to fan the flames of this sweeping stereotype, it seems no coincidence that our hotel happens to be full of Germans, who are more than living up to the sun-bed hogging cliche.

Having struggled to find a sunbed on the first day of our holiday, we soon realised that we had to be more on our toes. Operation ‘Bag A Bed’ was put into action the following morning. Setting the alarm for 8am, we headed straight for the pool area, foolishly thinking we’d have free pick of the loungers pre-breakfast.

But – unbelievably – at 8.15am, every good spot was already taken. Rows of towels and magazines were strategically-placed on beds, while the occupants were nowhere to be seen.


‘They probably came down here at the crack of dawn, threw down their towel, and then headed back in bed,’ I thought grimly.

The husband and I settled on our substandard sun-beds. Two hours later, and the mysterious hordes of sun-lounger hoggers still hadn’t appeared.


Even the usually laissez-faire husband agreed it was infuriating.

‘There’s a sign next to the pool stating that you aren’t allowed to reserve a sunbed for more than 60 minutes,’ I said. ‘They’ve been several hours!’

But would you put your faith in this gormless poolside attendant to enforce such a rule?


I didn’t think so.

The next morning, my alarm went off at 6.30am.

‘This is no holiday,’ mumbled the husband.

I tiptoed out of the room and scampered down the corridor in a cloak of darkness, thinking, ‘No sane person would get up this early… this’ll fox ’em!’

I leapt in the lift, armed with the all-important props – an old magazine and my sun hat – ready to commandeer the best sun-lounger humanly possible.

I trotted down the corridor, turned the corner, and was greeted by…


… a very sodden looking pool area. It was absolutely pouring down.

I’d been foxed by the weather.

I trudged dismally back to bed, where in my mind I played out a Robin Hood-style scenario of sweeping up all of the magazines and towels around the pool and piling them up in the corner – a true crusader of the Save Our Sunbeds campaign.

When the sun-bed hoggers eventually arrived to reclaim their spot, I’d be innocently led nearby, pretending to be engrossed in my Kindle.

If approached, I’d probably say (in a terribly British accent): ‘Oh golly gosh, I have no idea who has moved your things…

‘Although now I come to I think of it, there IS a notice saying that you shouldn’t leave your sun-loungers unattended for more than 60 minutes. So I suspect it was probably the pool staff enforcing this very sensible rule. Auf wiedersehen!’

That didn’t happen, of course.

Instead I vowed to rise even earlier the following morning – or possibly sneak down to the pool at midnight, with a couple of towels I’d squirrelled away the day before.

The sun-bed war was on. And I wasn’t going to throw the towel in that easily.