I did a volunteering stint at one of my charities yesterday (Tuesday). Normally it is pretty uplifting but on this occasion I felt that I could have done better. When I go in, I have a small list of clients that I try to speak to. The amount of time I spend speaking can obviously vary from week to week, but I do try and speak to everybody. In fact, it’s a classic case of the size of a task varying to fit the time available – I often end up getting out only when my alarm clock goes off to tell me that it is time to disappear.

But I spoke to one of my clients who seemed quite down. Apart from speaking to people that day, she hadn’t spoken to anybody since Friday, so spent the whole bank-holiday weekend home alone. I have to say that being alone is not something which particularly bothers me – I was an only child and even in adulthood, would prefer being on my own to being with people I didn’t want to be with. Before I got married, I spent a lot of time single, or not really being part of a couple. But I know that other people can be different. I immediately thought that I ought to spent some time talking to this client, although it became clear that they didn’t have a great deal to say. My normal get-out of a conversation is to say that I had better let them get on with their day, but how do you say that to someone who’s already said that lack of motivation has made them lethargic? What are they going to go and do? This really is where I fall short. I can happily chat to people, spend the time of day, etc. but I don’t have any professional training to deal properly with this. I basically rely on taking their mind off their predicament, at least for the duration of the conversation. As it was, I suggested maybe going for a walk to enjoy the spring flowers, but I don’t suppose that was much more than a sticking plaster.

I really feel for people who seem to need human company more than I do. I, at least, know that I was quite happy to get by before my wife came along. And vice versa – neither of us will be lost without the other. I’m quite happy not really to have any contact with my daughter, the fuss she caused in 2015, and the indirect fallout afterwards, have always felt like the final few nails in the coffin.

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