Hairless Neanderthal

Dear FW,

There’s something you should know.

I am a neanderthal.

Although, clearly a naked one, because I am blessed with being significantly less hairy than my less-evolved counterparts.

I’m not saying that I walk about dragging my knuckles and clubbing animals. That’s not how I roll.

What I mean is that I need cave time.

Cave time is something my cousin and I discussed at length on a long road trip one Christmas. The essence of it is simple, introverted persons need cave time. Some people call it me time, but that sounds selfish.

The amount of cave time they need is dependent on the person and the environment or situation they are. The more sociable or stressful the situation the more cave time is needed to recover.

Examples of cave time include; reading, binge-watching tv shows, stretching/yoga, writing, listening to music and pottering about. These kind of activities require alone-ness, quiet and preferably closed doors and curtains where possible.

Cave time allows for relaxing and it helps the mind stop screaming. Noisy mind is a longstanding problem which is exacerbating by a lack of cave time.

I need quite a lot of cave time.

I love you and I love hanging out with you, you’re my best friend,  but cave time is essential. Without it I lose who I am, the noise levels get too much and you wouldn’t like who I become.

There is a delicate balance though.

Too much cave time is equally as bad as not enough cave time. It is by nature a solo activity but humans are pack animals and the connection to community and socialising is important.

So, when it looks like I’m retreating more than normal, through me a life buoy. Drag me out of the house to do something with other humans. I won’t want to, I’ll protest, but do it anyway. I will thank you for it afterwards.

You’ll eventually learn when it’s cave time, and what is a healthy amount of it. Try not to get jealous of the cave time, I’ll come back to you, always. Trust me when I say that it’s a good thing for both of us.

Love you always,



They met when they were teenagers.

On fire watch, when incendiary bombs rained flames over the school roof, they spent the nights playing games and eating black market biscuits.

That was in the war. Back then she was graceful and quick witted. Back then he was sharp and handsome.

“She was a looker even then,” he said. “I fancied her but we weren’t courtin’.”

National service and nursing training meant separate ways for a while. A few years later they met again. At a dance, down Roker, he saw her. He was with his mates, and a girl called Robson on his arm.
“I saw her. She was dancing with this lad, he was a hunch back mind but he could dance. I got me mates all lined round the room and every time he went to ask her they buzzed him off.”
“Buzzed him off?”
“Aye, you know, cut in,” He explained. “So in the end she had to dance with me. She was a good dancer too.”
They danced ‘til the band finished playing. He walked her home, across the river, five mile out the wrong way. That was the start of it. They courted and eventually married. He never said what happened to Robson.

He taught me to dance as a child; foxtrot, waltz, quickstep. I don’t remember her dancing at all. I barely remember her walking or moving from her sitting room chair. I wish I’d known them both before age, illness and the inevitable grind of life shrunk them down. An impossible wish.

Old memories are patchy, misleadingly highlighted with photographs and over-told exaggerated tales. An unreliable slide show of family mythology. Mostly I am left to wonder.

I imagine her as a young woman; smart, athletic, stylish. Her hair perfectly arranged in her trademark coiffure. Her waist was, as she said frequently, a mere 21 inches then. Wearing a beautifully tailored dress which spun out as he twirled her around the dance floor. She would have laughed at his charming and ever-so-silly stories. One marriage, four children, seven grandchildren and a great grandchild later, he still tells those stories. I’ll never know if they are true or not.

They had a long run, a whole lifetime of stories, and some are now lost forever. Theirs is story of a boy and a girl in the blackout, and of dancing and family and love.

A team of two for seventy four years.
Married for most of it.
Argued for some of it.
Loved for all of it.

It’s unimaginable to have one without the other.