The se­cret of a bliss­ful ex­is­tence is liv­ing alone

No moan­ing to lis­ten to, no ar­gu­ments and no mis­matched tooth­brushes – it’s the best way to be, says Liz Hodgkin­son

The Oldie - - RAYMOND BRIGGS -

Nearly eight mil­lion peo­ple in the UK live alone – that’s one in every 3.5 house­holds – and I’m one of them. In fact, I have been one of them for nearly thirty years.

It wasn’t ex­actly in­tended. When my hus­band and I sep­a­rated in 1988 – af­ter he joined the Brahma Ku­maris re­li­gious move­ment – I ini­tially rev­elled in the deep peace and end­less quiet of be­ing on my own. I did not en­vis­age it be­ing a life sen­tence.

I found it strange and scary at first, hav­ing al­ways pre­vi­ously lived with other peo­ple. But, as the months and years went by, it be­came im­pos­si­ble to imag­ine shar­ing my space with any­body ever again. I came to en­joy be­ing the sole mis­tress of my do­main, with no­body to in­ter­fere or tell me what to do.

Look­ing back, aged 73, I can highly rec­om­mend it and would say that the up­sides far, far out­weigh the down­sides. As one sin­gle, fifty-year-old friend re­marked, ‘There are no down­sides to liv­ing alone. It’s all up­sides.’

Liv­ing alone is a rel­a­tively new phe­nom­e­non but it is grow­ing all the time; the num­ber of sin­gle house­holds has gone up by 23 per cent in the past decade. Few peo­ple lived alone in Vic­to­rian times. The trend re­ally only gath­ered pace af­ter 1945, when bed­sit­ting rooms were cre­ated for men com­ing back from the war. Then, in the 1960s, blocks of self-con­tained ‘bachelor flats’, or stu­dio flats, be­gan to be built, for sin­gle oc­cu­pa­tion only.

Hardly any women lived alone in the past. They had no means of sup­port­ing them­selves; wid­ows of­ten had to re­marry in haste for sheer sur­vival. As more peo­ple – women as well as men – can af­ford to live alone, in­creas­ingly they are en­joy­ing the lux­ury of the soli­tary life.

You can watch the tele­vi­sion pro­grammes you want to watch, lis­ten to the mu­sic you want to lis­ten to. You can have the dé­cor, the art­work and books that are your choice alone, and tidi­ness lev­els are ones that you alone cre­ate. You never come home to find some­body else’s mess lit­ter­ing the floor or some­body else’s socks in the laun­dry bas­ket.

Best of all, you will never have to share a bath­room. The toi­let seat is never left up, and there is no one else’s shav­ing gear around. Ev­ery­thing in my home is colour co-or­di­nated – so I don’t have to worry about the wrong colour tooth­brush tak­ing up res­i­dence in my bath­room.

All the clothes in the wardrobe are mine. I don’t have to squash my things up to make room for some­body else’s suits or huge shoes. I never have to lis­ten to tales of some­body else’s aw­ful day at work and there is no­body to ar­gue with.

When I come back from a day out, my kitchen is as tidy as I left it. As one lone friend said, ‘I couldn’t stand it if I came home from work to find some­body had made them­selves a sand­wich and left crumbs all over the coun­ters.’

I have be­come sur­pris­ingly com­pe­tent at jobs that I would leave to a man if I had one, such as see­ing to the car and do­ing DIY and IT. I have a range of span­ners, screw­drivers and ham­mers in my tool room; I now know the dif­fer­ence be­tween a Phillips and a flat screw­driver. I can even put oil in the car. With jobs I can­not do my­self, I call in a handy­man. I do not have to put up – as I did in my mar­ried days – with to­tal in­com­pe­tence mas­querad­ing as ex­per­tise.

Nowa­days, just about ev­ery­thing can be de­liv­ered to your door, in­clud­ing gourmet meals. There is no need to do any cook­ing, and you can hire clean­ers in just about every guise, from dailies to once-in-a-while deep clean­ers. All ser­vices are avail­able via the in­ter­net. When my boiler broke down the other week, I logged onto Google and got step-by-step in­struc­tions.

You are re­spon­si­ble for all bills, but this forces you to be­come an ef­fi­cient fi­nan­cial man­ager. When on your own, you learn to live within your means be­cause there is no­body to bail you out.

Al­though I live alone, I am rarely lonely. True, I have to de­vise my own en­ter­tain­ment and there is not a handy com­pan­ion for the theatre, cin­ema or a con­cert. I have also got used to eating out on my own.

My soli­tary ex­is­tence is en­livened or, should I say, in­ter­rupted, by vis­its from my two sons, Tom and Will, and my five grand­chil­dren, aged 12 to 17. Be­cause they are in London and I am in Ox­ford, their vis­its are rel­a­tively rare. Still, the grand­chil­dren’s youth and live­li­ness do stop me get­ting too cranky and tetchy.

With so many pluses, are there any down­sides? Just a few. If I am ill, there is no­body to look af­ter me or take me to hos­pi­tal. I some­times fan­ta­sise that, if I died, it could be sev­eral weeks be­fore any­body might miss me.

But a big­ger down­side is that grad­u­ally, al­most im­per­cep­ti­bly, you be­come ec­cen­tric, es­tab­lish­ing bizarre rit­u­als. I have to have my first glass of wine at 5.40pm pre­cisely, timed to the minute. All my tins have to face the same way round, and my books have to be stacked and ar­ranged with mil­i­tary pre­ci­sion. I know I would be more re­laxed with some­body else liv­ing in the house. And I do talk to my­self.

There is a par­tic­u­lar mi­nus for women. There is no­body to po­lice your ap­pear­ance; so you can go out with lip­stick on your teeth, your skirt tucked into your knick­ers or your eye make-up smudged.

But these factors are a small price to pay for the ab­so­lute blis­sikins of be­ing able to pull up the draw­bridge to your very own domi­cile.

‘ The toi­let seat is never left up, and there is no one else’s shav­ing gear around’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.