I have never been afraid of my own company. I prefer the company of others, and I do really annoy myself from time to time, but I enjoy being on my own and over the last couple of years have actively sought out places which will allow me to experience true solitude. However, after two weeks on my own in scorchio Mexico last year, when I nearly sent myself loopdyloo with my own company and intensive self analysis, I decided that maybe solitude wasn’t for me after all and I should welcome the benefits and company of others. It was a surprise then, that over the last few weeks I have found the noise and bustle of London so overwhelming that when I was offered the chance to spend a week, on my own, in Portugal, I jumped at it.
So it was that last weekend I found myself, with my lovely Portuguese friend, his girlfriend and baby, driving to his parent’s unbelievably beautiful beach house in a tiny fishing village. The plan was to spend the weekend together there, hanging out and enjoying the weather, and for them to leave me there on Sunday, alone, to write. I’m currently going through a rare prolific period so was relishing the chance to have some time alone, just to work on the many thoughts racing through my head. By about 4pm on Sunday though, there was only one thought racing through my head. ‘Please leave, go now, no right now, don’t have another cup of coffee, just go, please!’. This was in no way a reflection on my wonderful hosts, who were just that, but with a baby in the room there is always a lot of chatter and when the pregnant sister arrived with a toddler in tow the general hum, especially in a language I can’t understand, increased to bombastic levels. The mental ‘Ingles’ (me) nearly started beating herself in the head with her fists, and speaking about herself in the third person, see? mental. Finally, the time for them to leave arrived. Phew. But the expected sigh of relief didn’t come…as soon as I heard the car door slam, the only thought suddenly racing through my head was ‘don’t go, come back, I’ll make dinner, have a beer with me, I miss you!’ Short of chasing the car down the street and begging them to stay (so not my style), I was left with one option. Be Alone.
I paced through the house several times, completely at a loss as to what to do with myself. I hate to use an overused phrase but in this case it was true, the silence was deafening – every sound was magnified by the silence; the waves of the Atlantic, the pilot light on the gas boiler, the bees in the jasmine flower outside. After an hour or so though I started to relax and sat in the garden, finally enjoying the sounds of silence, and the solitude until it was cut through by the tuneful whistle of an elderly neighbour. I don’t know why but I love a man who can whistle well, sadly it seems to be a dying art. He popped his head over the fence ‘Bom dia’. I smiled – of course it is very hard to achieve true solitude, but in the end I had a wonderful, and productive, week. And a few hilarious conversations in international sign language.
Ay, there’s the rub. How can I be so desperate to move to New York, the busiest, most bustling city of them all and yet be at my most content by the ocean. This is not just a normal life v. holiday conundrum either, it’s a split personality conundrum which has haunted me, and many of my friends, ever since I can remember. All I want to do is party and rebel and go out with the bad boy…no, wait, the opposite of that…I just want to have a cup of tea and go for a walk with a nice man who understands me. I change my mind about this on a daily basis. I am so desperate to move to New York, but I keep meeting people who live there who say, ‘Oh wait til you’ve been there a couple of years, it’s not that great.’ I want to scream at them and say ‘Do you know how lucky you are?’ But I suppose (in this cliché ridden post I may as well add one more) the grass is always greener on the other side. I just need to chose a side and stick to it, at least for longer than one day.
I am on the verge of accepting a new work contract for 6 months (it is taking slightly longer than I thought to pay off the debts from last year’s sabbatical) so my plans to ‘make it there’ are on hold, but only for a little while. At least the company I am working for have a New York office so will keep pushing for a transfer. I am more determined than ever to make it happen and, hey, Coney Island is only a subway ride away.