As a child I didn’t really like being on my own. I liked reading but liked to be around other people while I was doing it. I hated bedtime, night-time – the solitariness of it was awful and I was scared of the dark, but could never explain why. As a teenager I would, of course, spend a lot of time in my bedroom but still hated the dark, didn’t like going upstairs alone in the dark, and hated being in the house on my own at night.
My brother once asked me to cat-sit for him while he and C were on holiday. I thought I would love the independence of living on my own for a week and doing what I wanted. The reality was that I barely slept the first night. They lived in a maisonette at the time and I was convinced I had not locked the door properly, waiting all night to hear footsteps coming up the staircase (the cat didn’t help by wandering around until the early hours). I got through that night somehow but slept at home for the rest of the week, going in on my way to and from work to feed the cat. I have never told my brother that I didn’t stay there, I was far too embarassed. I would have been about 19. Ridiculous.
Even now, as a grown woman of 47 and mother of two teens, I am not keen on being “home alone” overnight. I dread K going away even for one night and never sleep very well, if at all, when he is not here.
However, I do like being on my own during the day. I I love our house, I am very happy here, we have lovely neighbours, we feel safe and secure (which is a bit at odds with me not liking being here alone at night, but I never claim to be rational) and it’s a nice place to live.
But if there was one thing I could change it would be the noise. I often have the radio or Spotify on low during the day when I am working, mainly for some background noise, but I also really love just sitting with the sound of the birds and the wind in the trees, the windchimes clanking (some people hate them, I know, but I find them quite relaxing).
Unfortunately, because of where we live, we have planes going over regularly and, despite what people say about getting used to it after a while, although we have lived here nearly 20 years I still find it irritating. Add into that: traffic noise from the A5 (which is louder on some days more than others depending which way the wind is blowing); cars going past on the High Street; buses pulling up at the bottom of the road – it’s not exactly peaceful.
We live in such close proximity to other houses – we’re packed in, let’s face it, and the gardens run at parallel and right angles so we are pretty much surrounded by houses and gardens on all sides – we hear a lot of other noise. Dogs barking, trumpet playing (sometimes all day – where does he get his puff from?!), kids screaming, kids crying, kids arguing (same kids, all from the same family, one of whom seems to be the unhappiest child in the world). When we sit outside of an evening, or even just sitting in the extension (we stil haven’t come up with a better name for it, even a year later), we are aware of being overheard or being too noisy or we’re aware of other people’s conversations, music, noise, etc.
When we went on holiday to Dunwich a few years ago, K and I were both struck by how peaceful it was. We had neighbours but were not really aware of them. There was no traffic noise, no planes, no screaming/crying/arguing kids – just birds singing. I didn’t want to come home. In fact, I cried the morning we left. I know a week somewhere is not enough experience of a place to know that it is perfect but it felt pretty idyllic at the time. When we talk about the future we see ourselves there. I have no idea what the future holds, but in our dreams we will retire and live by the coast, maybe with a dog and I will cycle everywhere. Ha ha.
In just over a week’s time we are going away for a week, staying in a barn conversion on a farm in the middle of nowhere. It’s got land all around it rolling down to a stream, no-one within shouting distance. Definitely no screaming kids, crying kids or arguing kids. Not unless we really p**s the teenagers off. Hopefully the only crying will be from me on our last day. Because that will mean I have had a lovely time. I may not come home.