Hermit Age


When I get lonely, I visit my local tip. Apart from Wednesdays, I am guaranteed to find someone about, willing to help me get rid of a load of stuff which, up to that point, had prevented me from moving on in life. One time I discarded so much of my old junk that back home I noticed the front door sign was gone, and the post box which had my name on it. I got in and a woman I’d never met before was moving about hoovering. She was wearing my shoes.


Few years back when mother came for Christmas, I’d emptied out the master bedroom, and put my clothes and paintings in storage. The books went in the attic with all the soft furnishing, curtains, carpet, ceiling lights, lamps, extension leads, writing desk, mattress. In the excitement of her coming, I made the mistake of forgetting The Psycho-pathology of Everyday Life on the bedside table. During the second night into her visit, she woke me up to complain she could not sleep with all that clutter.


During supper at our usual tavern it reeks of furniture polish. At six o’clock waiters dust the old piano then serve the wine out of bleached carafes. Two past seven, room temperature eighteen Celsius. Twenty-three guests order the same main course. Those seated by the piano need more salt and spare cutlery. Seven twenty-eight. The kitchen door opens and closes four times in twelve minutes. At four past eight there will be a power cut. Guest B finishes his lamb chops in nine minutes. At three past eight the waiters bring out tea light candles. Guests A, C and F reach for matches. No-one speaks to anyone.


Technology and I are not on good terms as of late. Due to limited memory space, mobile apps keep freezing. Vodanex contacted me a few times already with updated offers then with sound advice which I politely requested to have mailed over. The experts suggest that my memory clutter is most probably coming from the BooksApp; too many pages left open in standby. The longest kept on the waiting list has been Is God Happy?. I flick through an essay on socialism which Kolakowski started at page fifty-eight and finished at sixty-four. My phone pings: Congratulations! Time for a break! You now reached your daily reading goal!


A poet goes on a cruise. Over the following two weeks I get regular updates on her experience with excessive parental control. It ruined her previous holidays, current relationships and future careers. She uploads a video of her father in lounge wear, looking sternly at the camera. Followers share views on failed parenthood, family issues, care for the elderly, social crisis, mental health, addiction, self-help, charitable causes. Towards the end of the sojourn, she succumbs to popular demand with an obligatory holiday selfie by the pool with sunset background, hazy wine glass, fresh hairdo. Discreetly placed in the left corner of the snapshot there is a copy of her most recent book. It awaits nominations for
TS Eliot, Forward, Granta or, failing these, The Writers’ Association Book of the Year.


Following major funding cuts at the Arts Council, a local philosopher lost her job. She had no children nor viable proposals of marriage, and no other skills. Subsequent employment applications were unsuccessful, mostly due to efficiencies and forward-thinking plans approved in unanimity in all economic sectors. For a while she contemplated suicide but once the neurosis phase passed, she decided to retrain. She put the redundancy money to good use and, in the spirit of the moment, bought a battery chicken farm.





Maria Stadnicka

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