Friday, April 9, 2010

Home Alone

My Nightwatch column from today's Day&Night magazine:

I ain't no Marlene Dietrich but sometimes I vant to be alone. However, the deal with living in a city is you've got to really believe that hell isn't other people. You've got to love the buzz and the bustle.

It is okay, though, to occasionaly admit that the packed top deck of the 46a can be purgatory. It's alright to never really mean it when you smile apologetically at chuggers as they try to mug you for a charity direct debit on the street.

Why do we bang on about the Phoenix Park being the jewel of the city when most of it resembles a giant dog run? Let's be honest, from time to time, we all want to stand in a big field and say nothing to no-one.

Alternatively, to get some quality 'me' time, you could touch something gross, pick up a nasty virus and have your doctor put you in quarantine.

That's what I did. I'm not sure what it was (or who it was -- there's a thought) that I got into grubby contact with. All I know is that I woke up one morning feeling like I was hosting the remake of The Clash of the Titans in my stomach.

Fearing the distance between my doctor's office and my bathroom was a marathon too far, I rang in with my symptoms. It was serious, I was told, but not so serious that I would die. Which was reassuring.

Stay away from other people for a few days and drink lots of fluid. The Fella's innate sense of timing meant he was heading to Norway -- don't ask -- for a few days, so he kindly dropped off a crate of bottled water, soup, yoghurt and ... er, toilet rolls on his way to the airport. "Kisses!" he waved from a distance, as he performed a swift drive-by groceries manoeuvre.

In the past, when I've been working too hard, I've fantasised about being made to go sit in solitary confinement and do nothing, like in one of those Outbreak-style films. Just as a precautionary measure, naturally. I wouldn't actually want to be diagnosed with the Ebola virus and have blood come out of my eye sockets.

In reality, being forced to stay home alone is more like, well, the Home Alone films. The tablets start to kick in. Suddenly you're feeling well enough to do all the things you wouldn't do if someone was there to see you. Watching Jeremy Kyle until you feel like you have to shower. Air-guitaring invisible power chords to naff 80s compilations. Buying whistling keyfinder gadgets from Spying on the neighbours.

It turns out that the only neighbours of mine who are at home during the day are elderly and rather feeble. At 10 minutes past midday every single afternoon, a minibus from a day centre stops outside their flats and the driver beeps incessantly until the poor old folk emerge like slightly blind badgers, raincoats in a flap.

I decided we didn't like that driver. (You know you've been on your own too long when you start referring to yourself in the third person).

After two days, depression takes hold. Like Kevin in Home Alone, you want your mummy. So you ring her and she lets you moan on until such time as the second half of Coronation Street comes on the telly. "Okay darling, mind yourself, love you!"

But this too shall pass. By the time I got the green light from the doc to head outside into the real world again, I had reverted to acting like an adult. In my last day of quarantine, I tidied up the gaff, put my books in alphabetical order (by author), did three laundry washes and downloaded all the photos trapped in my digital camera for the first time in months.

The following morning, I hummed all the way to the shops and smiled broadly at everyone until someone asked me what my problem was. Ah Dublin, I missed you.


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