Rhodri Marsden: Symptoms of living alone may include smelling one’s telephone

Life on Marsden

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Last week I realised that I'd let my flat go. It had become the domestic equivalent of the middle-aged man who has ballooned to 20 stone, got egg yolk on his vest and made a decision not to remove a spectacular bogey from his moustache. It was a tip. I'd begun discovering things in unexpected places. It felt as if my normally non-judgmental Laura Ashley feature wall was putting together some kind of dossier. Sadly, these are the symptoms of living alone. You gravitate towards your own unique level of untidiness, remaining in orbit until someone pops around unexpectedly and calls you a pig.

There are other symptoms of living alone. I've been writing them down. The other day I wondered what the skirting board would feel like if it was pressed to my cheek, and with no one around to dissuade me, I gave it a go. (Cool, refreshing.) I realised last Wednesday that my mobile phone smelt nice, something I could only have realised by sniffing it, which I'd never do in public, but might start doing now because it smells nice.

I don't particularly enjoy these behavioural patterns. There's currently a book out by Eric Klinenberg called Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, in which he attempts to position single-occupancy dwelling as some kind of magnificently heroic deed.

But he's wrong. Nowhere in the book does he mention grim breakfasts of Hula Hoops and water, or unguarded moments where you whisper huskily to yourself, "Come on, let's do the ironing", or incidents in the kitchen where you pretend that a bag of frozen peas is a monster that's coming to eat you. But that's what happens. My downstairs neighbours laugh quite a lot, and I sometimes wonder if they broke in one night and installed CCTV. But we should start admitting to this stuff. People who co-habit need to know that it's not the nirvana it's made out to be.

The worst we admit to is hoovering naked (neither erotic nor efficient), or going to the loo with the bathroom door open (common sense, unless you've also left your front door open and hung a sign on it saying, "Come and watch me go to the loo"). Anyway, I will now say the word "synth" repeatedly in a room on my own in an attempt to cheer myself up. Synth.

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