(with apologies to The Killers)
We made it to North Norfolk. Brancaster in the distance. Justmeandlilley on our tod. Again, I hear you cry. Aha…
Our dear, old car has swapped the comfort of its garage every night for the dangers of the public driveway. I’ve lugged, shoved, packed/unpacked so many times I’ve become an automaton. Pack it, don’t pack it. Shove it, bash it, quick shut the boot. That’s us. Her perched on a box on the front seat. Her lodged under the footwell after shooting off the front seat. We drove like that in the grinding rain for nearly sixty miles once. I couldn’t stop. She spent the entire journey under the footwell, face to face with the carpet. We didn’t speak for 24 hours after that.
But, you know, I’m too old for this. I’m too alone for this. Too tired for this. Who out there has time to care? Whataboutery if I can’t do it because of an old body packing it in. The madam sits looking at me with wide, scared eyes. If I fall down she knows she’s on her own. Without her carer. Not being much of a barker she’ll likely just remain in situ. The two of us fading away into the dark night and oblivion. We’ll be the stuff of legend by 2024.
I watch tele programmes where families are gathered. Supporting, supported surrounded with love. Before anyone writes in I’m aware not all families are so tight knit. But most or many are. And they take the main stage at present. We, as aloners, do not have a stage. In fact, I’d go so far as to say we’re more alien now than we’ve ever been. Which is strange given the amount of wordage allotted to many of our young people and their decision to remain childfree.
We were taking a rest on a walk called Rachel's Way in a lovely village close to the beautiful market town of Louth, Lincolnshire
Yet we childless live underground in a hush hush wilderness of 'who gives a shite?'.
Or -"ohhh. I never thought of that (childlessness, by the way). Aaaaw…you can always have my lot for the day. That should put you off for life. Ha ha ha!' Yes, it's hilarious isn't it?
Where I’ve chosen to ‘be’ geographically (and I use ‘be’ with hesitance because my mind butterflies around without constraint) is family to its core. I am now officially odd in a geographical sense. Truly the Norfolk locals - they can’t make me out.
‘Whoi shey aren’er ouwwen?’ (I’m doing Norfolk). Translation: why is she on her own?
I don’t know. No idea why she’s on her own. Do you ever get that angry bolt through your innards that goes ‘sod it, I shouldn’t be on my own. I look OK, I cook OK, I have half a brain and you can take me anywhere God dammit’.
And I have no kids, siblings, cousins that I see - no one. So that makes me even stranger, apparently. Like it’s somehow a decision I made at school to end up a lonely old biddy. This after decades of decadence followed by disavowal of ‘what parties? You talkin’ about me?’ Seriously they were such fun dahlings. Such a contrast to justmeandlilley. Isn’t it strange for those of us who were raving it up during the 70s (earlier? You devil you 😈) thru’ to early noughties how dull and proper it’s become. Healthy - that’s what it's called. You call it healthy, I call it boring. But necessary NHS, necessary!
A lovely hot summer's afternoon walking by the River Ludd, near Louth, Lincolnshire, and close to the cottage we stayed (indeed stay) at whilst we meander about looking to buy somewhere. Watch this space!
The point I’m making is the point I’m always making. Where are we? We talk to each other because most with kids plug their ears when the word childless pops out. Folk are not sure whether to apologise for their famille state, sympathise or offer us their kids for a month. Then see how you feel! For me it’s about ageing and alone. I have no one. I’m sorry if it makes you uncomfortable but it really wasn’t my intention to end up a solo odd bod. I’m lucky I have a couple of close friends who get my situation. At least that's what they tell me.
I figure it’s time to turn to the internet and go online to ‘gather’. Let me think about this. She (her) can get leaded up (that's 'lead' and collar) and we’ll go for one of our ‘hike conversations’. Yes we do talk so shut it at t’back. We had a hike conversation this afternoon as it happens. Whilst me and her watched the local football match on nearby sports/walks fields. Darned good it was too. Another lone spectator with dog stopped to chat and away we went conversing all over football. Isn’t that nice? It is though, be honest. All it takes for me. Easily pleased.
But back in the room and here’s where I am. I want families, mums (and dads) grannies, siblings, kids, to imagine what it’s like to travail one’s life completely alone - and ageing. You can’t can you? (Would they be reading this?) You daren’t for fear of looking into the abyss of black loneliness. Is this the result of ageing, being without children? In which case you must think more about having children, young people. Do not end up like me. With no one.
And, we are not weird because we are alone. Ageing, alone with a little dog does not weird make.
Not wanting to write yet another piece about loneliness, mental anguish and longing I realise I just have.
I can’t stop being angry at the injustice of it. And I’m writing this whilst another part of the Middle East burns itself into a living hell.
Therefore I shouldn’t have any beef to shout, apparently. But I am here (yes, alright I get the irony) so am I not entitled to live like you -family - over there? Pushing your little ones on the swings whilst gramps watches from his bench? Yo - picnickers - can I come join? No? Not family. I see. I understand.
And so me and her and many of you silently tread our invisible path through life’s freeways. No one notices us except to wonder if we’re odd. On our own, you see. Where’s your family?
‘Thing is, she’s old’. Definitely odd then.
This was at the lovely church at Heacham, near Spalding, Lincolnshire. Friend Marie (you've met Marie and family) and daughter Millie had met us for lunch with Lilley's on/off boyfriend Barney. We do a workout trying to get the pair of 'em to pose.
I may moan and I may mouth off. Ageing, childlessness affects me. Social exclusion affects me. Labels affect me. Because I’m old and alone. No matter what you say, government, social services, charities, you ignore us. We have no one to advocate .
Because as things stand we have to 'work' at it. We/us/childlessers have to work at it. Advocacy, back covering, decision making. Financials suddenly become scary places - ageing and alone.
It can't simply be 'talked' about and that's OK. We've discussed it so it's done. Not always.
It's great that younger people 'in charge' of things make our decisions for us in the public arena but you can't really speak for me. Give me a chance to speak for me.
Help us to have a voice and we can take it from there.
By the way, before I get the 'go join something/anything' gang - wait OK? Next one coming up in which I may divulge 'stuff'. And you'd better believe it!
At the cottage again, near Louth. Remember the hot days of summer, folks?
They made it. A Lilley and Barney date. He is some character that boy!
I had to write something on justmeandlilley because I’ve been so neglectful of my blog. Plus all of my social media but you’ll get over it.
Yet I feel guilty like lots of us do because I can write it and you can read it.
And we all know why.
Just - peace be with you.
At Holkham Hall Estate, North Norfolk. Recommend it to you all.
Thank you and good night!