Harriet Walker: 'I will be going to the theatre more often. Covered in suncream. And possibly on my own'


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The Independent Online

In a week of life lessons, I have learnt that you should always wear suncream and you should go to the theatre more. And you should do things on your own. And you can do both of these things on your own very easily, should you fancy it.

I'll start at the beginning of the list. I returned home on the Bank Holiday, stuffed to the brim with picnic and hubris, having spent much of the day wearing a coat and sneering at those women who chose to celebrate the first glimmerings of sun by diving straight into a maxi-dress or, worse, some sort of cut-off denim crotch sling.

"Look at them," I thought, snuggling into my coat. "It's sunny, yes, but not even that warm. They give other women a bad reputation with their frippery, and they make us all look like the vitamin-D-starved louts that the rest of Europe thinks we are."

(I get very worried about what the rest of Europe thinks of us.)

But when I took off my coat, I noticed that every inch of flesh that had extruded from it had turned a boiled-lobster hue, making it look as though I was wearing some very livid Marigold washing-up gloves and an angry scarlet ruff. All sense of superiority ebbed away.

It happens every year. And somehow, I let it. Actually, it didn't happen last year but that's only because I didn't really go outside during daylight hours last summer. But every other year, I spend the first week of warm weather purple-snouted with various criss-crossings of welts and thrumming pink heat islands across abstruse parts of me: the inside of an ankle, behind an ear – or this year, the area you'd wear a gauntlet over.

So from now on, no matter how cold I am or how much better I think I am than other people who realise that, yes, it is summer, I am going to wear suncream.

The theatre is another bright idea I have had this week. Perhaps you are already one of those enviable people who are good at making the time or booking the tickets or being arsed to go to the theatre. In which case, I can only exhort you to go more – I don't think it's possible to go to the theatre too much, unless you are talking musicals, but if you like them you probably aren't reading this column.

"Wuhhh," you may say (and many a time I would have been tempted to agree with you). "Wuhhh. The theatre is just TV but much less comfortable and too expensive."

To which I say: the theatre is TV with a break for ice-cream.

Not really. It's so much more than TV because you're completely consumed by it. You don't check your phone, your emails or your watch. You can't stop it to make a cup of tea. (I loathe Live Pause almost as much as I love it, because it makes you instantly less grateful and absorbed in a programme when you know you are its master and it will have to wait for you to have a wee.)

Theatre is in charge of you from the minute you sit down to the minute you stop clapping. And, provided you haven't done something silly like go to see a musical (or a pantomime), you'll rarely regret being strong-armed into giving something your full and utter attention.

Not that theatre is only good because it is edifying. It can also be a Right Laugh, or a Ripping Yarn. That's why it's so great that they stop it for ice-cream. Either way, I will be going to the theatre more often. Covered in suncream. And possibly on my own.

The reason I suggest that is because it's another aspect of engaging wholly in something exterior to you. Nobody ever talks about doing anything beyond going to the shops or to the gym on your own. After all, it's weird to do sociable things on your own.

But is it? I love it.

I love walking into a cinema or theatre or café and knowing that no one will disturb me for a while. That I can think my own thoughts while I'm here and that I will leave feeling vaguely, wildly, illogically productive, as if doing something alone is an achievement.

Try it. It's quite fun. If you spot a bright-red person daubed in Factor 75, it's me. But don't say hi, as I'll be enjoying my own company for an all-too-brief moment.