I’m 24 years and 51 weeks old (yes, my birthday is next week) and I think I’ve learnt how to do it. I’m happy in my own company. That’s not to say I’m antisocial, okay maybe a little. I have this thing where I can only stand most people in very, very small doses and often only if I can slag them off for a little while after the event. But there’s a few people who can make me belly laugh for hours on end and only very occasionally annoy me when I’m particularly pissy usually if I’m in need of feeding or an early night.
Alone Time (take 2)
I thought, when I went off to study law at the tender age of 18 that this was it, I was a grown up and I was independent. Eventually I met some of my best friends in those years of drinking too much (alcohol and caffeine- sometimes at the same time) and learning odds and sods that are needed for a career in the legal world (that was me using artistic license, I obviously learnt a hell of a lot of useful.. things but I won’t bore you with that). Friends that I think I’ll know for the rest of my life and that otherwise I wouldn’t have known. But in the first few weeks, what I felt a lot was lonely.
My house was always a hive of activity. Always someone in. And that meant very little time to be alone. And it meant never being lonely.
So it’s taken some time to be good at being alone. I tried it last summer and it was a stressful day battling through crowds with Converse rubbing the skin from my heels and no one to laugh at me for choosing the wrong shoes again [ http://ishoutwhenimeantowhisper.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/alone-time.html %5D. But this time it was different.
I wandered around Manchester, browsing fancy shops and asking questions in Selfridges like I had £400 to spend on a bag. I made sure I remembered my manners and thanked the assistant without promising to return later but telling her I’d think about it. I wasn’t lying- I’ve thought about how good I’d make that Marc Jacobs look, same with the Ted Baker hand luggage case. Almost non-stop. I listened. I liistened to people I wandered past, I spoke to the lady handing out pieces of cardboard spritzed with the new Chloe scent. I watched, I touched (items, not people), I window shopped and thought about things I might come back to buy.
I think I’ve walked about a hundred miles today. I’ve been all over.
I found a wonderful little tea shop called Chris’ Cafe) where I sat and browsed the web and talked to the friendly mancunian lady who worked there (I don’t know if she’s Chris or if she works for Chris I must admit). I hope she is Chris, though. I’m imagining how she’s baked for her kids for years while her husband told her they were good enough to sell, but she didn’t believe him. Eventually after years of people telling her to and maybe something a bit shitty happening like being made redundant, she decided to get a business loan and open up the adorable coffee shop in Chinatoown, Central Manchester.
The shop is small and cute. It’s homely but modern. The ‘Grandma’s Gooey Ginger Cake’ I had was, quite frankly, to die for. And it was nicer than sitting here like I am now in a faceless Starbucks drinking the brand and contributing to tax avoidance. Actually, my drink today was free after a complaint (another story) and Starbucks have apparently settled up with the tax man now but, you know, artistic license.
I was chatting the lady’s ear off anyway and she said “see you again” when I left, which she will because we’re back to undertake a walking tour and enjoy LGBT History Month events in Manchester next weekend (my choice) to celebrate the day of my birth and I’m going to make sure that the day includes a £3.00 coffee and cake deal at Chris’ Coffee. But as usual, I’ll substitute my coffee for a tea.
My day alone was fulfilling. I felt unwound and free. I liked reading the captions in the gallery and exchanging smiles with strangers. I’ve made a commitment to do it a bit more because sometimes it’s just the trick for shaking off a stressful week ready to really go at the next one with zelous.