It’s three o’clock on Saturday afternoon and I am surrounded by scenes of mini chaos.
The dirty dishes in the kitchen have formed some sort of shanty town, populated by half eaten remains and empty biscuit wrappers. Approach seems dangerous at best. Attempts to make a cup of tea may be fatal. Somehow when I wasn’t looking the dining room table has become a breeding ground for post and bits of paper. Every time I look away a few more appear, reproducing exponentially until they spill over onto the wooden floor. Or what used to be the wooden floor. It is now so thick with animal hair of various hues that I am considering just giving way to the inevitable and calling it carpet. Through the window I can see the washing machine in the utility shed flashing its lights at me angrily. “Just how long am I expected to sit here full of your wet washing?” it seems to say.
One of the cats is mewing incessantly, desperate to gain access to the panty, there’s no food in there so who can guess at what his kitty purpose may be? The dog is hungry. It’s a few hour yet till his dinnertime, but he dogs (ha!) my every move just in case I might be inclined to suddenly drop a roast chicken or something. It occurs to me that I’ve forgotten to eat lunch myself. And breakfast. My anxiety starts to rise.
I am home alone for the weekend, Hayley (my wife) has gone to see some old university friends and left me to fend for myself. Not a hard task you might think, I am a man in his thirties after all, not a fourteen year old who can’t figure out how to work the toaster. Neither am I one of these men you see in TV sitcoms who expect their wife to do all the chores around the house and don’t know how to look after themselves. Normally we split things pretty evenly. Yet somehow I have been alone for a little less than twenty four hours and I guesstimate that in another twenty four I will have gone mad. Neighbours will give the house a wide berth, ushering their small children past whilst speaking in hushed tones.
This always seems to happen to me if I am left alone for any length of time. It’s not that I mind being by myself particularly, I’m quite comfortable with my own company, but with no one else around I tend to loose all sense of time. I suddenly find it very hard to get on with the daily routine. Before I know it I’m eating ice cream for breakfast, straight from the tub at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I’m not sure that even counts as brunch.
The problem is that I have a tendency to get a little obsessed. If I am interested in what I am doing (in this case tinkering with this very website) it tends to occupy my entire attention. So much so that little things like getting dressed, eating, or picking up after myself often get pushed from my brain. Hours can pass like minutes, and before I know it the day has disappeared, leaving me feeling like the world has moved on without me.
Alfie, our Labrador, nudges my elbow again, bringing me back to here and now. Somehow I’d wondered back to the PC again. Half an hour has passed while I fiddled with colour setting. I look into his big brown, pleading eyes. It’s still not his dinnertime, but I relent and throw him a few treats. He wolfs them down noisily, his tail wagging back and forth enthusiastically, and I realise that of course I am not alone at all. I give him some fuss, then turn off the PC and let the cat into the pantry. He comes out 5 minutes later but seems to be happy. I do the washing up, evicting the food scraps and empty wrappers to the bin, then I clear the table and begin to put things in their rightful place.
I let Alf out for a wee. Whilst he busies himself in the undergrowth I listen to the birds, and feel the chill of the breeze on my face. Back inside I put the wet washing in the tumble dryer. It’s getting dark now, and whilst I think about doing the hoovering there are other more important things to do. I stick on a movie and curl up with Alfie on the sofa. He sticks his head in my lap and sighs contentedly.
Hayley will be home tomorrow, and another week will begin. All I have to do is remember that there is a world outside the front doors, and try not to drift off into my own head.
P.S. Hayley was stranded by the snow and delayed by a day, but I still managed not to go mad.