Thursday, 4 March 2010


I haven't done the post I was planning today, because it required me to go up to the attic, a fact which tells you all you need to know about my energy levels right now. On top of that, I made the fatal error of agreeing to watch a DVD in my bed with the children (the deathless "Street Sharks - Requins de la Ville" in which a gang of renegade shark/human hybrids fight crime and eat burgers, whilst the evil Dr Pirhanoid creates a master race of sea creature / human hybrids, each more unintentionally hilarious than the last). Now I am stuck in here, trapped in the doughy clutches of my exceptionally comfortable mattress. The rest of the house is desolation and squalor. When I went downstairs to try and locate a ringing telephone, the sight of the dog sleeping in the remains of a box of Mini Magnums, his scrawny limbs arranged neatly around some chocolate stained, shredded bills, sent me scuttling back to bed. If I had any form of nourishment up here, I would most certainly not be getting up again. As it is, I have to go and switch Lashes's light off in a minute and it seems outlandishly hard - there are, like, 20 stairs! Honestly, how long before I can just abdicate all responsibility and leave him to watch hyper violent Japanese anime and smoke dope all night?

The odd thing is, I know I WILL drag myself up to switch that light off, and then downstairs to tidy up. It turns out that I do have some - admittedly very low - standards, and that not leaving the night before's plates and dishes out to greet me in the morning is one of them. Who knew? This whole, living alone for the first time aged 35, thing is an endless voyage of self-discovery. I have found out, for instance, that I don't want to eat in front of the tv, indeed I almost never want to watch tv at all. Or drink wine. Bleugh, wine. If I want a drink, I want spirits. I have learned that I can't sleep if I know the heating is on, or if my bedroom is messy, but that this doesn't extend to the bathroom, which can look like the black hole of Calcutta for all I care, or to all the lights in the house being out. I still want to sleep on the door side of the bed and however often I make a conscious effort to spread across the full 180cm, (reminding myself that I waited 4 months for the privilege), I will wake up curled in a foetal ball milimetres from the edge. I know that most evenings are fine, anything between blissful and bearable, but that Friday and Saturday nights home alone feel utterly wrong and depressing, often to the point of being physically painful. I definitely need a drink on those nights.

None of this domestic ephemera is interesting to anyone but me, and most people have known all this stuff about themselves for so long it barely registers. But I am finding the process of finding out how I like to live aged 35 very intriguing. The last time I lived alone was in a single college room in Oxford, aged 21. I found a photo of it today, actually - a Vuillard poster, a tiny rug, a neatly made bed under a sash window, an enormous pile of books. A bunch of tulips in a cheap vase. I kept it absolutely, obsessively immaculate. Of course, I was very peculiar and mad back then, preparing myself sad little meals of steamed fish and vegetables in my rice cooker, going to bed at 9 most nights, after painstakingly writing out everything I had eaten that day in tiny, immaculate print in a squared notebook to be brought out, proudly, for my appalled therapist.

I think a whole day of meals from that sad little notebook would barely do for my breakfast now. Sometimes in this chaotic, bewildering time, I feel that at 35 I have very little more sense than I did at 21, possibly even less. I have no answers, and the future is shrouded in a sort of haze of barely suppressed panic. But I do know that I eat more, get drunker, stay up later, make more mistakes, create more mess, laugh more that I could possibly have imagined at 21. And I can't help but feel optimistic when I realise that.


Anonymous said...

Love your posts, lady. Even & especially domestic ephemera.

Em said...

Am going through similiar Friday and Saturday nights at moment and have been feeling teenage-ishy, petulant and sulky. Which makes for fabulous company should any poor soul accidently end up at mine. And far too eager and over-excited if allowed out.

Love how you keep just above the squalor level. A girl's got to have standards...

Knackered Mother said...

You could not make this up. And that is why you are unmissable. My word verification for this comment is FACKIN. As I said, you could not make this up.

Lisa-Marie said...

I think you are quite sensible really. Also, your scrupples about housework seem fairly similar to mine. Testament to that is the fact that our bedroom is immaculate, with properly made bed, whilst our bathroom seems to be collecting stuff including 4 pairs of husband's pants (which is almost the floor area of the bathroom, and he is quite thin!).

the polish chick said...

laughter is far more important than obsessive cleanliness, and high levels of motivation have been found detrimental to the brain stem. this is a scientific fact.*

*no, it is not. i totally made it up.

nappy valley girl said...

Great post - I haven't commented for a while but I am still here and full of admiration. (Why would you have had to go up to the attic? Do you have a picture up there like Dorian Gray?)

I am always obsessively paranoid when on my own in the house, switching off lights, scrubbing worktops and locking doors. Whereas, when my husband is around, I could quite happily leave the washing up half done and the downstairs light on. It must be some kind of self-preservation instinct, to stop ourselves from becoming total slobs.

Poppy Gets a Life said...

What a heartfelt post. I can just see you as a skinny, slightly malnourished girl in Oxford in your 20s.

I seems as though you are approaching your current living situation with fortitude and courage - it is inspiring to the rest of us.


katyboo1 said...

That is very cheering news indeed. Good for

Laura Jane said...

That optimism sounds hard won, my dear. I'm delighted for you.

Keep discovering.

Kelly said...

I found singledom with children after 16 years of a young marriage utterly fascinating. Terrifying at time but having a brain does come in useful sometimes(as a does a single malt whisky)

Jessica said...

I can absolutely relate, and I don't find it boring at all!

After leaving my 1st husband (we married when I was 21) and living alone for the first time in an adult "I have my own flat all to myself" sort of situation, I found myself similarly realizing things about myself, about my meticulousness and the things I couldn't care less about. I liked it (being the queen of my castle.)

I can relate as well though, to the Friday-Saturday night stuff. I poo-poo it generally as an anxiety that I'm picking up on in the collective unconscious or something most of the time, but sometimes it is genuinely nice to be social.


I kiss you, and also give you a firm and manly squeeze, in a non-sexy way. (Also, I am not a man, but you get the gist.)

Loops said...

I have just left my partner of 8 years and moved into a flat (above a pub no less!) with my 13 year old son. I find myself obsessive about tidyness whereas when I lived with 'him' I couldn't give a hoot. Probably cos I knew deep down I'd end up leaving so I might as well leave him with the mess! I have to say I'm loving it though. Though I have my son all the time (his father passed away last year) so I don't have the lonely episodes - I almost wish I did at times! I love your posts but don't often comment, and I think you are doing great and it will get easier. I find alcohol helps greatly : )

Iheartfashion said...

I can relate to this, although I'm failing at the moment to keep my house above squalor-level. It's a bit Grey Gardens in here, minus the 20 cats. The strangest adjustment for me, living alone with 2 kids, has been how much decision-making is involved. My husband and I split most things 50-50; now I find myself having to decide things all day long and it's TIRING.

That's Not My Age said...

Laughing more, eating more and staying up late all sound positive to me. Keep on keeping on.

Z said...

I slept downstairs for nearly a month. It was damn hard to resolve to go upstairs again, and secretly even harder to share the marital bed - a. I was medically forbidden sex (but, with care, no longer) and b. it's so comfy on your own and you can read in the small hours.

I don't care if the bedroom is untidy or even if the wardrobe door is open. I happily leave dishes unwashed overnight, though no longer. I eat in front of the tv and I let the dog lick my plate when I've finished with it. Hell, I'll let her share my steak, bite for bite, as long as she doesn't mind the mustard.

I trust you feel less squalid now.

Johnners said...

Yes to all of it, except the washing up, I can leave it for days and then be utterly shocked at myself and go into a frenzy. Oh, and the wine, I'd rather have that than spirits. Also recently found a photo of my Uni era, skinny little thing, carefully ensuring she never ate more than one day out of three... Think those were the mad days, not now! The mild, pervasive daily panic seems rather normal now...
PS Happy Birthday to Lashes x

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