Saturday, November 15, 2008


It's Saturday evening, and I only switched the computer on five minutes ago. I haven't had the radio on, or played any music, all day. I went to the market and bought some fruit and veg, and exchanged a few words with no.1 son this morning, but apart from that the only soundtrack to my day has been the whirr of the fridge, the gentle popping of the fire in the kitchen stove, the ticking of the clocks and the distant cries of seagulls. My word, this keyboard is loud.

Jim is still up on the boat, and Baz is off on some kind of philosophy field trip; it appears that the environs of Windsor Great Park are highly conducive to beard stroking and logical thought. He did send me a text last night, saying 'rubbish reception'; I wasn't sure whether that referred to the phone signal or the wine and peanuts.

So I'm home alone and loving it. There is a vast gulf of difference between solitude and loneliness. Sometimes, other people's company can be the loneliest place of all. I have spent a weekend which has been both delightfully indolent, and at the same time unusually productive. I can get up, go to bed and eat when I need to. The quiet, the lack of distraction and the ability to develop an unbroken train of thought have been fantastic for thinking and writing. I realise with amazement just how much time and energy other people - even with the best intentions in the world - draw from our reserves.

Now, for many people, and the accepted wisdom, that's a reasonable trade-off. Lots of people like and even need much higher levels of company and interaction. But I suddenly realise, with a blinding flash of light after all these years, that I am not one of them. I recall how solitary I was as a child, and how as an adolescent I invariably enjoyed my own company, and that of a book (not necessarily a good one, by any means), to that of my peers.

As a child, and as an adolescent you can generally absent yourself from family life without attracting much comment, in a way that you simply can't as an adult. Even to want to do so temporarily is viewed as somewhat pathological.

Coincidentally, I've been reading lately about people seeking ever greater quiet, or living isolated lives, and I've had an idea. What I would like to do is go up to the boat, by myself; stock up with provisions, and then go off to some little-frequented Fen or drain, drop the mudweights, and just stay there, completely alone, for a week or so, or until the milk goes off. Just to be alone with the quiet, and my thoughts. And maybe a book or ten. In the nicer weather would be better, so that I could sit outside. Even the landscape, there, is unobtrusive. To be able to notice ever smaller things, the things lost in the white noise of everyday life. To get to know myself again, like an old friend I've been too busy to keep in touch with for the last twenty five years.

Well, it sounds feasible to me, sitting here now. I wonder if it still will when I am no longer alone.

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