DIY guide to a splintered social life: Left home alone by his partner, Robert Ashton copes with the help of sandpaper and dinner parties

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Indy Lifestyle Online
It's four weeks, two days and 17 hours since my girlfriend left me. Fortunately, this isn't a permanent arrangement. She is working in Australia and will be back in a couple of months, but that is still a lot of warmed-over TV dinners and shirts that won't get ironed.

I miss her company and the home comforts she provided - a nice bit of nosh now and again - but mostly it is the old ways I hanker for because, left to my own devices, I have become a changed man.

I am now a Do-It-Yourself bore, always the odd number at dinner parties, a whizz on Sonic the Hedgehog, someone to call if no one else wants to sit through a four-hour existential French movie, a regular sight at the local Chinese take-away and - to the envy of my male friends - a footloose and fancy-free man about town.

My new bachelor life means I have become a vehicle for henpecked husbands and nagged boyfriends to live their lives vicariously and confide their fantasies of three months' unlicensed debauchery. Nights in the boozer no longer centre on Arsenal's dearth of goalscoring talent. With my girlfriend out of the picture, comments (accompanied by copious winking) like, 'if only Miranda would sod off somewhere' or, more directly, 'how many birds have you shagged so far Bob?' have become the dominant conversational gambit.

But things aren't as easy as my testosterone-charged friends envisage. Some of my partner's girlfriends have taken to calling round unexpectedly 'to check you're eating properly', but I fancy they are really after a whiff of scandal for their weekly reports to Melbourne.

With cheating off the menu (for now), I've thrown myself into other pursuits. Namely, spending endless hours stretched out in front of the TV watching football or playing Sonic, washing up, talking to myself, excessive Hoovering, typing out 62-page screeds to my dear cohabitant thousands of miles away and some handy DIY.

I have two DIY projects on the go: sanding and varnishing the floorboards - for a second time - and painting the flat. Both are quite unnecessary, but I figure the fruits of this labour could be a good investment. When my girlfriend returns to my weary arms and calloused and wood-splintered hands, I am banking on her being guilt-stricken to the tune of a week's worth of tea and toast in bed, a treat at a restaurant of my choice and her tidying up the mess I made doing the DIY.

Unfortunately the downside is that I have to spend large chunks of the weekend at uniquely cheerless places such as Wickes and the work really is punishing. This sort of home-making endeavour might also give her ideas about going away again if she thinks I'll fix the leaky roof terrace.

But even for a novice, DIY is pretty straightforward compared to singlehandedly negotiating social engagements. My transitory single status means those dinner party invites have to be treated with discretion. I have already made the mistake of tipping up at one party sans girlfriend. 'Where's Paula?' cried the host when I handed over my bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. 'What? In Australia. Oh, how disappointing.' Any invites listing her name before mine are now binned.

I must also treat any invites to the theatre, cinema or for a couple of pints down the Bull and Bush with suspicion. Some are undoubtedly 'pity invites', made in a weak moment because people think I might need the company. Even so, I have already worn thin my sympathy allowance with one couple who asked me for dinner one Friday night. I remained impervious to my hostess's withering looks and stuck it out until the end of Football Italia on Sunday afternoon.

Another critical problem with accepting dinner dates is that some people seem obsessed with even table numbers and matching boy, girl, boy, girl. Because I no longer make up a convenient pair, an unattached acquaintance is often brought out of mothballs to balance the count. The first course of one recent lunch was spoilt by awkward references to my blind date with the asocial spinster and the hostess catching up on what her former friend had been doing with her life since she moved desks in Form 3b at primary school.

I was, at least, polite enough to wait until dessert before raising the important question of which grade of sandpaper gives the best finish on pine.

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