Life in solitarySep 25th, 2008 | By Ian Poulton | Category: Personal Columns
Herself was giving out, “He’s been there nearly a week now and he hasn’t made any friends”.
I looked up at Jupiter, faint in the misty, darkening sky.
“That’s no big deal, I didn’t make any friends during the whole time I was at university”.
“I had thought about that; but you did meet me”.
“We weren’t at the same university. I had no friends in London; I hardly remember the names of the people in my year anymore”.
The dog tugged to the left, creating a gap in the conversation.
“When I die, they will say, ‘Sure, hardly anybody knew that fella.'”
Herself wasn’t inclined to argue.
There seems to be a law against solitariness.
It was easy to be solitary in London; no-one knew who you were and no-one cared. It was easy being solitary in theological college; I was married and it was assumed the married men stuck to their books and didn’t go out. Once ordained, the fences were easier to keep, no-one would tread on your space.
The best compliment I ever received was when my friend in the North mentioned my name to one of my colleagues, “Oh him”, the colleague replied, “he is very hard to place”. I was happy with being unplaceable; in fact, I had spent years trying to be unplaceable.
Why do people assume that you have to be a partygoer, or a socialite, or be clubbable to be happy?
I had a lovely afternoon last Saturday, I took the DART into town and went to a fascinating lecture about soldiers’ homes in the First World War; the views across Dublin Bay on the return journey were the best I had seen all summer. It was a solitary afternoon, there would have been few enough people interested, anyway, does that mean that something was lacking?
In college days, there was a man who said he would like his headstone to bear the inscription, “He was a decent man”. It seemed a worthy aspiration, only surpassed as an epitaph by that of the late great Paul Eddington whose desire was that it would be said of him, “He did very little harm”. Solitariness tends to mean you can do no great harm.
Maybe Herself will get her wishes and there will be a string of new friends, but it’s OK to live your own life; to read your books and to do your own things. It’s OK.