I don’t think I’ve ever been alone. I guess that makes me a pretty lucky person. Sure I’ve been by myself at various times in my life (thank god for that…) but when you truly think of what it is to be alone, I don’t think I ever have been. Obviously growing up I had my Mum and brother. I came to university and lived in Halls where there is always someone to bug (or to bug you). Then I lived in a variety of shared houses, with friends and my other half. I got a dog, now I have two and various other feathered pets and we have our own place. But I have never lived on my own. Whenever the boyfriend goes away for the weekend, as he has done today, I imagine what it would be like to live by myself. Obviously with the dogs I don’t ever feel like I’m really by myself and like most crazy pet owners, I speak to them as if they understand what the hell I’m saying. Also, they follow me from room to room in an expectant way as if there will be a bacon sandwich hiding behind each door just for them. They never leave me alone.
I read something once which said that everyone should live by themselves at some point in their life in order to really get to know themselves. Now that’s all well and good, apart from when you’ve been with someone for 13 years and you would quite like to spend the rest of your life with them. If you suddenly turn around and say, “you’re pretty awesome and all that but I’d really like to move out and live by myself for a while, you know, just to experience it” I think they’d get the wrong end of the stick. I do like to pretend though, when he is away that I live by myself, in my head I assume it’ll be a romantic weekend of independence, finding myself and doing things that please me. I generally spend the weekend desperately trying to avoid the cleaning, faffing around on Facebook and watching Friends re-runs. I would be terrible if I lived alone. For one I do not like unexpected visitors. Honestly, along with people who can’t queue properly, people who just show up and expect you to accommodate them really gets my goat. One of my ex-boyfriends (who was an ex at the time) just showed up at my Mum’s house on Christmas day once…surprise! WTF? Who does that?! Yes we were mates after the breakup, but no you cannot just come round willy-nilly, people still need warning when you decide to visit. You might have your pants airdrying in the hallway, or the remnants of last nights pizza crust still on the coffee table. These are things you do not want people to see. I imagine I’d quite quickly turn into a hermit if I lived by myself and be referred to as the dog/duck/chicken equivalent of the ‘crazy cat lady’.
My thoughts turn to my 95 year old grandmother. She is a legend in her own right. I have so many funny stories about her, I could dedicate several blogs just to her, but as an introduction, she is Portuguese and her name is Maria. She came to this country in the 1970’s and has pretty much lived alone, in a little studio flat on the cusp of Chelsea in London for the past 40 (ish) years. She bloody loves London. And why not? It is the city of multiple creeds and cultures, the city that never sleeps, that has hundreds of different shops, museums, parks and other entertaining things to do. Most people in the world have heard of London. It has status and like my grandmother, likes to be noticed. In the last 10 years she’s become less mobile, less trips out, less social gatherings and more sitting at home by herself watching international TV. I phone her often and try and visit every couple of months. She doesn’t speak very good English, but saying that, it is better than my Portuguese. We have created a unique language somewhere in between which gets us by. She is quite a religious Catholic, again something that has increased in strength over the years. She used to go to church regularly, now she just relies on the bible under her pillow. I wonder how someone who was so full of life is now pretty much confined to four walls. The thought of that would drive me crazy, but she seems happy with it. I guess being alone with your thoughts is nice, remembering the ‘good old days’, but it’s got to be pretty lonely right? We have in the past offered to move my grandmother to Devon to be nearer my mum, that way she can see people often, mum can keep an eye on her health & wellbeing, and she can get taken out on day trips to garden centres and tea rooms. Nope, she doesn’t want that, she’d rather stay in London. By herself. I suppose after a time you get so used to being by yourself that you find it hard to be around other people. Visitors are nice, but I often get the feeling that she is actually relieved after we leave. She can get back in her nighty, under the blanket and watch her dated Portuguese version of Emmerdale.
I hope my luck continues though, that I never have to be by myself, that I never really get to experience being alone. Even if that means I have to live in a granny-annex attached to my grown up begrudging children’s house, and they are forced to listen to my tales of ‘that time I climbed Mount Kinabalu’. I’m sure they’ll love every minute.