“I can’t stand the solitude!”

My Uncle’s wife.

Summer 1958 (ish) and my mother’s brother and his future 2nd wife were looking after us kids while our parents went on a coach trip around the Lake District. This was the only time I remember them ever going on holiday together, with or without us.

Uncle, I think it was from him I learned to be pompous, had opined that he could not understand why anyone would want to live “in the middle of a field.” We, in fact, lived in a bungalow right next to the farm that my father worked on, milking and caring for a herd of Guernsey cows.

Solitude! I ask you! It was only ten or so minutes walk to a local shop!

Solitude, the state or quality of being alone or remote from others or a lonely or secluded place, can be found or experienced anywhere. Walking alone, down busy Oxford Street in London on a Saturday afternoon  can be an experience of solitude. There you are, in the midst of all that humanity and yet you can have a feeling of desperate aloneness, dramatic apartness. Painful solitude.

On the other hand, atop a cliff or hill or in the middle of a vast plain, under a huge all enveloping sky one can experience a solitude exquisite as a jewel…. struck by wonder, by peace, a feeling of calm…that is a solitude I would seek.

Many years ago, aged 19, I found such a place on top of a cliff looking out across the North Sea where some one had put a bench bearing the legend: “Sit ye here and Mardle.”

Mardle is a Norfolk dialect word which defies definition. It is to wonder,to daydream, to stare into the distance and to do these things all at once or individually. Perhaps.

“Wot’re yew mardlen’ at ‘bor?”

Solitude can be most constructive and yet it can be destructive.

For me Solitude is almost a synonym for peace….. and yet I dread the solitude of  an empty house.


7 Responses to “Solitude”

  1. Maria Says:

    Thank you for my new favorite word – Mardle. I am here in the mountains and there is a beautiful bench where I sit and mardle. Solitude to me is a gift, but like all good things too much is well, too much. Balance therefore is important. I need people around me. I need to be involved in life and yet, I sometimes, long for those precious moments of solitude.

    I grew up in the City of Minneapolis, but my summers were spent in the dairy country of Minnesota. Guernseys were my favorite milk cows.

  2. gaelikaa Says:

    I suppose it is a question of balancing the need for company with the need to be alone with ourselves…..

  3. Grannymar Says:

    Mardle is new to me. Now I shall spend my day in a mardlen fashion!

  4. Rummuser Says:

    Being raised in a farm in the country, makes one capable of mardling. I too come from a farming stock and have spent many vacations in deep rural India during the times when there was no electricity and proper roads and we used bullock carts to commute between the nearest railway station seven miles away and home. Such a life trains one to become reflective and appreciative of solitude in all kinds of environments as you so aptly bring out.

    Mardling is a new word for me too and I thank you for teaching us about it. I can however get the meaning quite clearly.

  5. magpie11 Says:

    I have now discovered another meaning for Mardle:

    a pond near a house, in the yard, or on the neighbouring green, or by the roadside, convenient for watering cattle. Exactly the Fr. mardelle.

    This comes from The Vocabulary of East Anglia an attempt to record the vulgar tongue of the twin sister counties of Norfolk and Suffolk as it existed in the last twenty years of the Eighteenth Century and as it still exists with proof of its antiquity from etymology and authority.
    By the Late Rev. Rpbert Forby, Rector of Fincham Norfolk.

    Published 1830

    Now for another, just found by a search engine:

    To waste time in gossip. (Anglo-Saxon, mathel-ian, to talk; methél, a discourse.) From Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

    I heard it myself in the 1950s… in the usage I first gave.

  6. Ginger Says:

    I hear you!
    Excellent word, that – Mardle. I also like Grannymar’s spin on it – mardlin – though it sounds a little too much like maudlin. 🙂

  7. Ashok Says:

    It is so true that solitude can be found anywhere. I would even go far as to say it is a state of mind. I remember at this one time when I had accompanied my father to this city called Mangalore where he was invited to speak on the topic of human rights by a local organisation there. The university campus where the talk was organise was very beautiful and as the adults rambled on with their jibber jabber about ethics and law, I happily chased a cat all around campus all day long. I spent the better half of the afternoon, sitting and observing the train pass the railway line next to the campus. In the face of being thoroughly ignored, I had the most fun day possible. All one requires is a good imagination and love for observation and solitude becomes quite a pleasant companion 🙂

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