At the exact moment when I should have been closing my eyes and sleeping before having to get up (much, much) before midday for the first time in two weeks, I instead found myself reading (and finishing) The Servants by M. M. Smith. It is written in the same taut prose I expected, although it took me a while longer to be fully gripped by the story than I had found in his other novels. The ending cranks up to speed rapidly, in a manner that reminded me of Terry Pratchett’s writing, and seamlessly linked an (imagined?) alter-world with the harsh, bleak realities of the true.
The Servants tells the story of Mark, a boy of eleven who moves to Brighton with his mother and her new husband. It is a story of coming to terms with a changing life, and of the impact of moving.
The character of Mark appealed to a certain part of me, in that his situation was not all too dissimilar from my own on a number of ocassions. The book shows Mark coming to terms with living in a new location and finding things to do for himself, without any new friends. A recent count found that I have lived in at least ten different houses, in seven different counties, so this is definitely an experience I can empathise with.
This got me thinking about loneliness.
Since I first moved when I was three, and then again shortly after that when I was six, I’ve been used to completely relocating my life from an early age. As such, I no longer fear it; this was definitely convenient when moving to university, and then on subsequent career moves. A number of people I know commented on how difficult they had found the move, many of whom had moved away from a close-knit group of lifelong friends.
It has also allowed me to move to new areas with no contacts in that area twice in the past two years: I moved to Swindon to complete my PGCE year, and then to Newham for my NQT. Each time, I moved into a one-bedroom flat; I’d rather live alone than deal with the possibly frustrating kitchen antics of somebody else.
As such, I spent a fair amount of time in coffee shops and other public lounge locations. Partially for the free Wi-Fi, but mostly so that there’s a buzz of life around me while I work. I think it’s been being able to work like this that has helped stave off crushing loneliness at any point. It would force me into interactions with other people, and indulge my love of caffeine.
To be honest, the job requires constant interaction with people too, so that’s probably stopped me from getting lonely. I imagine that might not be the case with mundane office jobs.