I have had no more than a few hours on my own in a year. All this time with my family means I never have time to think
What would you give for a day on your own? Fifty pounds, £1,000, a toe? Perhaps that feels offensive: it depends, of course, how you have spent the past 365. You might sacrifice a digit for a soft body to slump against on the sofa, for the hot, heavy weight of a sleeping child numbing your arm or a hand within reaching distance when the night-time dread sets in. There is an epidemic of loneliness: 36% of Americans in a recent survey reported feeling lonely at least “frequently” during the pandemic; in the UK, the same percentage felt loneliness “sometimes” or “often”. But it is not the whole story: one of the frustrating things about pandemic life is the inequitable distribution of warm bodies.
There are lots of them here, using my bath oil and favourite mug and dusting every surface with protein powder, having thoughts and expressing them loudly. I really love them, but I recently found a slightly incoherent note I had written (presumably at a trying moment I have managed to forget) that reads: “It is possible to love your children fanatically and also to wish they would go away for long enough so you can feel that love in peace.” I stand by that – and would extend it to my partner, even though he is the only person I would ever choose to live with and the past year has been surprisingly harmonious (thanks to his forbearance and good humour while I have been my usual disagreeable self).
Emma Beddington is a Guardian columnist