Don’t get me wrong. I do have days off work. But I have two small children. I’m sure you can fill in the rest.
My wife and kids have gone away on holiday for a few weeks. Nothing weird or anything – my wife is from Thailand, it’s important and great for the boys to meet their mum’s side of the family, finances are tight and I couldn’t get a big chunk of time off work. So rather than say none of us could go just because it was difficult for me to go, we decided for them to go off and have a fun time without worrying about me.
That’s the official story anyway. Secretly the appeal for me is I get to be a bachelor again for a few weeks.
Okay, the first night they were away I did feel sad, the house was eerily quiet without them and later I didn’t sleep that well. But I was able to drown my sorrows in wine, a curry, That Mitchell and Webb Look and George Harrison‘s All Things Must Pass LP.
The first thing I did when I got up the next morning was set up a computer workstation downstairs. Normally I work in my “study”, the small third bedroom, which is very nice but let’s face it, if the kids aren’t running around downstairs all day then why wouldn’t you convert this:
Of course if I was a proper geek I’d’ve worked out by now how to run two computers from a single keyboard, monitor and mouse. Still, I do have a wheely office chair, so this setup allows me to have work stuff happening on the Samsung netbook while at the same time my blog, Twitter, Facebook, iTunes and email run on the adjacent Packard-Bell desktop. Allegedly.
Because I can’t stop looking at it, here’s another photo of the adapted dining table, with the added bachelor accessories of pizza and wine.
The full bachelor effect of course wouldn’t be complete without a bachelor fridge:
I’ve also got my old Strat plugged into my amp (which it rarely is these days) and have been playing along to songs. Such as here.
(Mildly geeky stuff follows.) This was technically the fourth attempt to get my setup to work. I recorded it on my iPhone, which I propped up against the amp on the floor. (I used to use my Samsung’s built-in webcam for recording my musical activities but although it was a lot more convenient than the iPhone, uploading from it to YouTube always produced a shocking audio/visual lag; the iPhone isn’t subject to such issues.) The song – one of my favourites from Tracey Thorn‘s excellent, recent Love and its Opposite album – was playing on iTunes which I ran through the amp. The latter is a Line 6 Spider III 15-watt practice amp with what (to me at any rate, having grown up somewhat before the iPod era) has the utter genius feature of an MP3-player input jack: you can not only listen to your iPod through the amp, but any of the inbuilt effects you apply to the guitar only apply to the guitar – the songs aren’t affected by reverb, tremelo etc. I found that starting the iPhone’s video camera and then placing it on the floor by the amp had the effect of recording (or at least rendering) the video in landscape mode, so I ended up in early YouTube experiments playing on my side; this was resolved by propping the phone up first and then starting the camera afterwards. I also found I had to turn the amp right down to get a reasonable sound balance – in retrospect this is logical given that the phone is right next to the speaker, but it’s disorientating for me, as standing six feet away my guitar sounded thin and weedy. Even on this recording the guitar is really too loud in the “mix”.
But hey. I’m a bachelor for a few weeks. I have time to perfect these things.
Following my guitar noodling I went for a two-mile walk. Not much bachelor-ish about that maybe, but I used to do that every day off. Occasionally these days I’ll play a little football in the garden with the boys, but taking a walk, on your own, for its own sake just feels like an unaffordable luxury. On my return I felt energised, not worn out, and my glass of wine also tasted better for the excursion. By an odd coincidence there was a nice article in yesterday’s Guardian Weekend magazine about the mental benefits of walking: I go along with the theory among several posited therein that walking is refreshing and inspirational because of what you’re not doing; stopping work frees your mind to open up to other possibilities.
I then cooked a spaghetti bolognese, something else I hardly do these days. Back in my bachelor days I would cook a bolognese or chilli or chicken curry every night. Now, my wife cooks every night, because (a) she’s terrific at it, (b) she enjoys it, and (c) by the time I’ve got the kids to bed I’m too exhausted. I mean at eight o’clock, if I have to I can do a microwave curry, or, at a stretch, bacon and egg. But not proper cooking like my wife does, or like I used to.
I should emphasise that I don’t consider it my wife’s job to do the cooking or anything like that. It’s just that like any couple who have lived together for a while, pretty soon you discover the things you’re each best at and stick to them. I’m good at housework, for instance, so I generally do the majority of that. It’s not that my wife can’t clean, but she doesn’t enjoy it much, whereas I don’t mind. I actually find it relaxing. It’s the same with me and cooking – I’d rather not, if I didn’t have to. Although actually, when I’m not under pressure, like last night, and I have the time to do it, I can knock out a pretty damn fine bolognese, if I say so myself (never forget the Worcester sauce, and plenty of tomato puree), even if I do have a tendency to overcook the pasta, because I’m too busy playing the guitar and forget about it.
The next thing I did was sit down in front of the TV with the bolognese. There was a pitiful lack of anything decent on, so I watched a film. The selection on Virgin’s Movies On Demand isn’t brilliant but there are occasional gems. I briefly considered The Road, as I loved the book, but hesitated, as with the kids away especially I thought it would probably make me sad. (I mean honestly, the book alone had me in floods.) So I rented Harry Brown instead, which I’d been avoiding for a while as the previews didn’t look that impressive. But I like anything with Michael Caine in it, and favoured something a bit emotionally-neutral. That’s what I thought anyway, but after the first five minutes I realised I’d probably end up incredibly depressed instead. Still, depressed is better than sad, right? I’m unconvinced. Anyway, by the end I wasn’t actually depressed as it was weirdly enjoyable in a grim-and-bloody-western-shoot-out kind of way. Ironically when the film ended I switched to network TV for a minute and realised I could have watched Michael Caine in Little Voice, one of my all-time favourite films, for free. But hey. Guns, drugs, inner-city violence… I’m a bachelor today, baby.
Finally I got to bed about 11.30. Which is about as late as it gets with me. Bachelorhood notwithstanding.