Being single is usually a pleasant position to be in. Particularly if you have an active social life, and the odd hobby here and there. You march to the beat of your own drum. If you feel like festering on the sofa in your pyjamas on a Saturday afternoon, there is no-one who will tell you to pull yourself together. The TV channel is always on your preferred station. If you have a decent circle of friends then you won’t be wanting for company if you fancy an evening at the theatre, or cinema or pub.
You perish the thought of the years advancing, and life on your own as middle age looms. There’s no point in dwelling on something that you can’t really control. You pay your money into your pension fund, and hope that the housing crisis will be sorted by the time retirement hits, and you’ll be sorted with somewhere to live
Who knows anyway – perhaps you’ll meet some great big, burly rugby player with an appreciation for the arts, who’s a whiz in the kitchen, who will declare his undying love for you. Stranger things have happened (not least Linda Martin only coming second with ‘Terminal 3’ in the 1984 Eurovision Song Contest).
One challenge of the single life is holidays. I’m lucky in that I am seldom short of travel companions if I feel the urge for a trip. This does require coordination and compromise. I am also lucky to have befriended many people from various places, during my life in Amsterdam. Some are still there. Some have moved on. Paying a visit is generally an option.
Holidays to new destinations are easier for couples however.
On the occasion when you travel to a brand new place on your own, you are hit full square in the face with this fact. Rooms in hotels are for pairs. When you travel solo you pay double.
The few places that offer single rooms tend to shove the lone traveler in a room the size of a broom cupboard, with a miserly single bed. Hardly conducive to scoring.
Luckily on my very recent trip to Gdansk I did not suffer from this ignominious fate. I rented a perfectly spacious apartment, for a very reasonable price. This may be related to the fact that the seaside in Poland in January, is not wildly popular destination. I got the place – suitable for a couple – for a cost that was cheap for one.
I prefer traveling in company, but comfortable going solo. I am able to fill my time productively, see the things I want to see, and let my number one buzzcut down.
With one glaring exception – eating alone in a restaurant in the evening.
Lunchtime poses no problem – you are usually on the go; stopping for a quick bite to eat, before heading on your way, to your next port of call.
The evening dinner is more of an event. It’s a destination of its own. And you want to spend time on it. You have some drinks, and a chat, and maybe a starter. You joke about not eating too much bread which will only spoil your appetite.
It’s not an activity that I feel at ease doing alone. Maybe I’m foolish, but sitting by myself in a small corner table, surrounded by loved up pairs, or families or groups of friends makes me self conscious. I know that nobody is taking the blindest bit of notice of me. The wait staff aren’t bothered. It should be perfectly fine. It still makes me cringe slightly.
In Gdansk, I could have spared myself. My apartment had a kitchen. There was a supermarket close by. I could have had a microwaved ready meal for one every night?
No sirree Bob. I was new in town, only here for a few nights. I was not going to sit at home like Billy NoMates while there was such a wide range of fine eating establishments (at very affordable prices) on my doorstep.
The first few nights were fine. I was drugged up on painkillers and anasthetics from the dental work. It was a main course in the restaurant, followed by bed. That was enough exertion.
Last night I steeled myself. The dentistry was complete (for now). It was my final night in town. I was going to a fancy fish restaurant that I had noticed earlier in my exploration of the town.
I sauntered in the door like a devil-may-care Limerick playboy, and asked for a table.
‘Are you dining alone sir?’
‘Don’t you judge me, you cute Polish waiter you. I have friends you know. I’m not going to stand for your disrespectful insolence’ hissed my inner monologue.
‘Yes I am,’ were the actual words that came out of my mouth.
It was all very plush.
I had sturgeon and a pancake stuffed with cabbage, carrots, and a rich sauce for my meal. It was accompanied by a glass of white wine.
Surrounded on all sides by couples, I decided that I would only have the main course.
I was being delusional when I thought they were staring at me. They weren’t – they were drowning in a sea of love.
The glass of wine must have calmed me.
When the waiter returned and asked if I fancied dessert, I replied in the affirmative. I ordered another glass of wine.
I was on holidays. I should make the most of it.
I am glad that I did. It was a very fine bowl of creme brulee, in a very impressive waterside restaurant.