Just thinking about it earlier today, I came to the somewhat surprising realisation that I have never lived alone.
From as early as I can remember I shared a room with my brother, who was (and still is) eleven years my senior. My main memory from that period is of sitting on my bed trying to read while he blasted Earth Wind and Fire records at me. He joined the army and I got the room to myself; a situation which lasted until I went to university, where I alternated a year in halls of residence (my own room, but shared kitchen and bathroom) with shared houses. One year we were two men, one woman and a couple. It often felt like they were the sensible parents and we three were the unruly children. The second time we were four men, with all the noise and hygiene issues that implies. We were very proud of our Leaning Tower of Pizza boxes, which almost reached the ceiling, and our mantlepiece display of beer cans (similarly vertiginous and structurally unsound). Happy times.
Once I’d moved to London, my financial situation (i.e. unemployment) forced me to continue to share rent, bills and lebensraum with a motley assortment of ne’erdowells, although my co-renters were both out of the house most of the time, leaving me to rattle around on my own. I eventually managed to land myself a place in a house full of Scandinavian women whose acquaintance I had originally made at university. While there, I met my future wife (no, not one of the Scandies), and the rest, as they say, is history. The locations varied (UK, Ireland, Italy, Belgium), but I’ve been co-habiting with my better half ever since. There was a brief period in 2001 when she first went to Brussels for an internship for a few months, leaving me alone in our flat in Genoa while I finished my contract as an English teacher, but apart from that, I’ve always had to share at least a bathroom and kitchen, if nothing else, with others.
Maybe this is why I so value time on my own. Maybe if I had the house to myself 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I’d be all the more keen to get out and socialise? Then again, I spend 8 hours a day at work surrounded by people, so I’m pretty sure I’d still spend most evenings alone with a good book, cd or dvd. Who knows? Being able to use the bathroom exactly when, and for as long as I like, would be nice. Once my two girls have grown up and I find myself in a house with three women, I think I’m going to have to build myself a little shed at the end of the garden…