Tuesday 27 April 2010


A dear friend has had a sudden sharp attack of empty-nest syndrome. It's not that her young have just left home. One of them more or less left seven years ago to go to school in another country. He went back only for holidays and has now made his home overseas. The other left to go to University abroad, and that's where the emptiness has crystallised. Son number two is about to graduate and seems not to have plans to move back to his home town. His Mother has, thus, had to face up to the loss even of the 'Oh -well, he'll -back- for -the- holidays' comfort. As I was doing my best to help her deal with this and even to identify what it was that seemed to be pulling her down, I had an unexpected revelation of my own. I am suffering from empty-diary syndrome. There you are, I've said it. Don't misunderstand me: it was the right time to retire and there are many advantages, but there is no getting away from it, my life is not an ideal shape for retirement given how habituated I had become to a life of work.

In an ideal world, a retiree needs a retired companion. Sometimes, when I have occasion to go to a busy railway station, I see couples of a certain age, each with a small wheely bag, anxiously scanning the departure boards and I suffer the tiniest squeeze of envy. Other than the phenomenon of the single woman and the restaurants, (see below - ad nauseam, no doubt), when I was working, singledom was much less intrusive. Indeed, the over- wheening nature of the work actually became one of the 'good' reasons to stop it. The responsibilty to be where one had said one would be, when one had said one would be there, was getting weighty. Weddings were missed. Latterly, funerals were also missed and life was constantly lived with one eye on the watch. Those things obscured a different slant on reality, id est, without the work, there may well be hectares of unused space in the diary. Feast or famine, that would cover it. When you are permanently in a state of being busily 40 the only way a blush of another reality impinges is when running for a bus starts to take longer, bits of paper fallen to the floor constitute a back hazard and you have to ask people to repeat what they have said. Otherwise, there are few externals to remind the internals that something has to change sometime. I spent the first months exploring freedom and making a lovely, tidy house. However, there is only so much re-organising a small house can take and only so much of organising I can take, too. (Though, I have to tell you, an old air-raid shelter at the back of the garden has been cleaned and damp-proofed and made in to an ideal storage area for all the stuff my young will throw out the moment the undertaker's back is turned).

That having been done, (gerund?) what shall I do now? Music, books there are in plenty. What I hadn't noticed was how few people were around in the to-play-with sense. My friends are either young enough to be working while I am still alert and awake enough to play, or as old as I am and not keen to trust themselves to the evening air and certainly not to public transport in the evening air. While I was working strange hours and evenings, too, I somehow fell out of some of the circles of which I had been part. All these add up to a need to get out there and do something about it if I want the kind of diary that allows for new entries a minimum of three weeks ahead of the time of being asked. But do I? I would, as it happens, like to make time to go back to the Casino to which I was introduced at the week-end. (No, I am not joking. I'll tell you next time) My inner 40 can't wait for that. But my outer 75 quite likes supper in bed, my cat waiting for me to move the tray away from what she considers her lap so we can watch television together. There is a vixen and her two cubs in residence in her garden so she is scared to enjoy the spring sun newly out there. I have had to grow some indoor- cat grass to fill the garden gap. We'll both be delighted when that nest empties. Maybe the emergence from winter, as nature and man wake up, will help the empty diary syndrome, too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You can feel and you can think and you can write: a rare combination. Thank you, Brian