POPPA HOWARD FACES THE PROBLEM OF BECOMING SUDDENLY SINGLE.
1: INTRODUCTION AND MY OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
Some of us are suddenly catapulted by Fate into becoming suddenly single again after perhaps many many years of a happy marriage. This actually happened to me and I hope that this Article may be of some considerable help to those faced with the same dilemma.
My wife, Jean, and I were very happily married for over 50 years, but she died very unexpectedly (that is another very long upsetting story, however) and I was, therefore, suddenly catapulted into the category of ‘Suddenly- Single” without any prior warning within a matter of only a few days. Ladies that are going to have a baby can, at least, attend preparation classes where they learn what to expect (if it is the first time) and how to cope with a whole new very different way of life that is looming on the horizon.
During my working life I was an Electrical Engineer and had 5 years apprenticeship for the practical side of electrical engineering plus night-school classes for the theory side. Unfortunately there is no apprenticeship for “Sudden-Single” (in future, I will call these people “SINGLEES” to save printing ink) and we such people have to suddenly become INSTANTANEOUS EXPERTS in entirely new living techniques, very often hitherto the sole (and sometimes jealously guarded!!) domain of the female species! My wife used to say, jokingly, “Howard cannot even boil water without burning it!!” But listen chaps, , , , , I would very strongly advise you NOT to attend any “preparation” courses whilst your wife is still alive, or she might think that you are entertaining plans of disposing of her !!!
Although written primarily for the male species, there is a tremendous amount of good sound advice and help for our dear females also. So ladies, read and select what is applicable (and have a hell of a giggle at us stupid men!!).
I have, therefore, “had to learn the hard way”. So there you have it, after 51 years of a happy marriage to a wonderful woman who cared for all my domestic needs I am now having to live on my own., , , Prior to my marriage my Mother looked after me right up to the time of my marriage. So you can quite easily understand that it has been as though I have been suddenly uprooted and unceremoniously dumped onto another planet!
In these subsequent years I have had to learn how to cook, how to shop, how to do all the housework, and not forgetting (also applicable to the ladies!!) how to live all on my own without everyday (and night) companionship.
During this painful learning period I have amassed a veritable fund of information that could be an absolute treasure chest to others who suddenly find themselves only just setting out on the same journey.
Some of my experiences are so hilarious, My Daughter Angela said that I could write a book !! So here now is some of this “vast fund of information”.
2: NEW EATING HABITS
Our ‘Worthy Females’ can skip the next bit, , , Most South African men are real perfectionists at organizing braais in the garden, but I have got bad news for you chaps!, , , , you cannot make a braai in the kitchen. It would make a hell of a mess of the linoleum on the floor and you could even choke to death in the smoke. You will also have the smell of smoke throughout the whole house for days and days afterwards. In any case, you would not want to braai for every meal including breakfast, lunch and supper 365 days of the year. So I am afraid that it is back to the drawing-board, like it or not, for a whole lot of new design work. I did not like the thought of it either initially, so I made a nice fancy large notice on my Computer and stuck this on a cupboard door in the kitchen where I saw it every day. It read, quote: “COOKING IS FUN!”. (one of my fellow “Singlees” said to me “ Who are YOU trying to kid?!” ).
3: WHAT’S ON THE MENU?
Lets take this step by step, , , , , , When you were a child, you had to eat what Mummy put on your plate, take it or leave it, , , and this was based on what she could cook best (Logical , , hey?!). However, when you were married you had to eat what your wee wifee put on your plate, take it or leave it, , , , , AND THIS ALSO WAS BOUND TO BE BASED UPON WHAT SHE COULD COOK BEST. By NO stretch of the imagination could it be such a coincidence that this would be exactly the same (Logical, , hey?)
Many married men go to business lunches or eat in the Office Dining Room or at a Cafe around the corner, , ,but this still leaves a meal at night does it not?
BUT, , , ,now that you are on your own, having just been presented with ‘The Royal Charter of Suddenly Single” you will jolly well eat, take it or leave it, ONLY WHAT YOU CAN DO BEST (Logical, , hey?!)
4: LET’S LOOK AT THE ALTERNATIVES
The alternatives are as follows:-
(A): A full-time maid does ALL your cooking (in which case skip the rest of what follows). Maybe your Mum AND your Wife had full-time maids who did all the cooking.
(B): You eat ALL your meals in the Retirement Village Dining room (in which case also skip the rest of what follows).
(C): You eat SOME of your meals in (B) above, in which case DO NOT skip the rest of what follows.
(D): You eat at your daughter’s house just up the road (but not ALL meals, , , , , so DO NOT skip the rest of what follows.
(E): You order Cooked Meals to be delivered to your place of abode
(F):I cannot think of any other alternatives, so DO NOT skip the rest of what follows.
5: A TIP AND SOME VERY EASY DISHES TO START THE BALL ROLLING
TIP: Do NOT try cooking an egg in a Microwave Oven without first spiking it with a Knitting Needle, or you will have an explosion that could blow the oven door off!!!
(a )Vegetable Soup: Here is an absolute gem for a quick healthy nourishing meal , , , ,
(a) Pour boiling water into a soup bowl containing powdered instant Mushroom or Butternut Soup.
b: Chuck in 3 desert-spoons of Baked Beans or Tinned Vegetables together with half a dozen frozen oven-bake-chips broken in half , , , ,If you want it less “vegetarian” you can also add a few chunks of chicken or meat.
c: Put this in the microwave for about 2 or 3 minutes.
d: While this is “cooking” put a slice of bread in the Toaster and slice up some cheese and tomato on a side dish. Maybe add some Cucumber and / or Beetroot.
e: When the toast “pops”, spread this with Grape seed oil or Olive Oil then with some ‘Marmite’ or Tomato sauce etc: Pour a large glass of water or even a glass of Stout..
The above is one of the healthiest, delicious AND QUICK meals imaginable.
(b) Cooked Rice in a Flash!! Here is a “Red Hot Tip” , , , , , , ,
a: Chuck (or gently place) One cup of Rice in a Thermos Flask.
b: Add Two cups of Boiling Water
c: Leave overnight.
Believe it or not THAT IS ALL!! The next day you have ready to eat rice, or you can stick it in the Deep-Freeze for another time. (Add salt to taste). I would not say that it is “delicious”, but it is certainly O.K. for putting in soup (see above).
(c ) Baked Potatoes in their Jackets:
Here is an amazingly simple way to ‘microwave’ a ‘BAKED POTATO
Just do the following , , , , , ,
(1) Stab the potato all the way through 6 times with a knife AND DO THIS FROM BOTH SIDES. This is to ensure that the heat penetrates evenly all the way right through the potato. Other recipes will probably tell you to just prick it with a fork, but this is totally insufficient.!! The other reason of course is to also ensure that it is stone dead, and that there is no likelihood whatsoever of it getting up and running away out of the door, which it could do very easily if only pricked with a fork!
(2) Put it on a saucer and Microwave it for 6 minutes. Note however, that you may have to adjust the time slightly, depending on the Electrical Wattage of your Microwave. Also, adjust for a longer or a shorter time if a very large or a very small potato. After a couple of experiments you will soon ”get the feel” of what time suits your individual circumstances the best. If underdone, simply put it back in the microwave for another few seconds and make a note for the next time. If overdone, , , , then toughies! , , , ,you won’t make that mistake next time!
(3) To eat, cut in half, scoop out a hole in each half and plonk in each hole a dollop of Canola Spread or similar.(Yummy- Yummy!!!!)., , , , , also add salt to taste, of course.
(4) NOTE HOWEVER ,,, That to do TWO potatoes at the same time THIS WILL NOT BE EXACTLY TWICE the time for one potato, but something a little less (say: 10 minutes in my case). As I have just said , , , If underdone, stick it back in the microwave for another few seconds.
5: DECIDED ADVANTAGES OF BEING ON YOUR OWN
For us “Singlees” there are, nevertheless, decided advantages of being on your own and they are, , , , , ,
(1): You can try out all kinds of ‘new’ things (not only in the world of food) without rocking the boat in which your wife is firmly ensconced in the bows!!!
(2): You can try out ANYTHING you wish, , , WOW!! No more will you hear things like “What ON EARTH are you trying to do?? “ “Don’t make me laugh!!” and so on. If it doesn’t work, so what!, , , just proceed to Plan ‘B’, and if THAT doesn’t work, then Plan C and so on.
6: YOUR CLOSE CIRCLE OF FRIENDS WILL CHANGE
(a ): The Cows will very soon come home to roost !!
Make no mistake about it, your life will change in ways that you least expect. One of these will be your circle of close friends. This will not be immediate, in fact, at first, you will detect no change whatsoever. Your close friends will rally around you, inundating you with sympathy and kindness, spoiling you rotten. They will genuinely worry that you are not looking after yourself properly, especially in the eating department, and you will be spoilt with hot meals being delivered with careful instructions on the preparation of same. They will go overboard to ensure that you are not left on your own too much and will invite you out to meals, and perhaps even to go out with them to concerts or outings etc: all to take your mind off your grief. This will be greatly appreciated by you and you will lap it all up with extreme gratitude and perhaps start to think that your new single life is not such a bad thing after all.
BUT, , , , eventually, sooner than you expect, “the cows will come home to roost” and, ever so slowly, it will dawn on you that the “Your Newly found Honeymoon” is all over. You now proceed to the eighth day after “The Seven-Day Wonder” and your previous close circle of friends will change completely.
(b) The reasons why your close circle of friends will change.
I have tried to analyze this situation and have come up with the conclusion that, In general, married couples prefer the close friendship of other married couples. The reason for this is quite interesting when you come to think of it. Let me explain., , ,
If a Married Couple has a sociable conversation with a Single Person then it MUST fall into one of the following categories without ANY exceptions, , , , ,
(1) The Married Couple’s husband is talkative but his wife is not.
(2) The wife is talkative but her husband is not,
(3) Both are talkative
(4) Neither are talkative.
THERE ARE ABSOLUTELY NO OTHER ALTERNATIVES ARE THERE??!!!
Whatever the above situation, when you are on your own with a Married Couple, Oh Boy, Oh Boy!! you have got BIG problems!! Let me further explain,, , , ,
Consider (1 ) above (Talkative Husband): You and his wife initially pay polite attention but eventually you must both get bored (the wife sooner than you because (a) she has heard it all before until she could scream and (b) It will most definitely exclude knitting and sewing, cooking and ‘lady-gossip’! . She will then get up and say ‘Shall I go and make the tea?” When she has gone, the husband raises his eyebrows and bombards you with some of his favorite smutty jokes. When you finally limp home you do not consider that the visit was actually a roaring success!
Consider (2) above (Talkative Wife): Almost the same as (1) above except that the sexes are reversed, but unfortunately the husband does not find any relief in going to make the tea. When wife finally goes and does this, the husband just sits there smiling at you and you then have to keep up an extremely one sided conversation ‘on the boil’, so much so, in fact, that when his wife returns, you could throw your arms around her and kiss her, even though she weighs a ton and has a face like the back of a farm tractor!
Consider (3) above Both Talkative): You sit and listen, not being able to get a word in edgeways, even if you had come to tell them that you had discovered that they had just won the lottery! Your biggest problem is to try to stop your eyes from drooping and to try and nod and grunt in all the right places., , ,Like, for instance, if one says “I suppose you think I am being totally stupid!!” and you nod and say “Oh yes, I could not agree more!!”.
Consider (4) above (Neither are talkative): O Boy O Boy! Now you REALLY have got BIG BIG problems. YOU must keep the conversational pot ‘on the boil’ for the WHOLE time. By the time you leave you are mentally and physically exhausted, and your voice is as hoarse as a crow with hooping-cough. It is very much like having to play a tennis match where you, alone are facing TWO opponents on the other side of the net.
(c ) Why Married Couples visiting Married Couples don’t have the above problems
All the foregoing circumstances are all very neatly catered for however, when a married couple visit a married couple. If the husband tries to hog all the conversation, the one wife will say to the other wife “By the way Jean, I came across a lovely dress last week in Woolworth’s” , , , , , , and off the ladies go on “strictly ladies talk”. The men then revert to golf, fixing car engines, the stock market and so on. A very enjoyable evening all round. There are never any awkward pauses in the conversation because while one partner is talking, the other spouse is mentally collecting ammunition for an entirely new subject . And, when one of the other parties gets on a high horse that YOU could never hope dislodge in a thousand years, your dear wee wifee is an absolute genius at chipping into any conversation and dropping a bomb-shell!.
The bottom line is pretty obvious, is it not, , , namely, that you gradually but very definitely tend to phase out being close friends with married couples. There may be isolated exceptions where very strong mutual interests happen to coincide and perhaps where a married couple NEED YOUR EXPERTISE OR ADVICE ETC: on something or other (say, holiday accommodation that you know well, and so on). This situation would, however, tend only be very temporary in nature.
(d) A Completely Different Reason for Breaking Up Old Friendships
Something I never expected was that the husband of a married Couple can get quite jealous of your friendship with his wife as he thinks that you are trying “to get off” with her !!!!, , , This actually happened in my case. As I will explain as follows, , , I took up ‘Tailoring’ as a new hobby, and one neighbour (the wife) was very tickled with this and gave me a tremendous amount of advice when I had ‘Technical Problems’. One day, as I was passing their house I suddenly remembered one of my problems so called in for advice. I said “I just popped in as I was passing” I heard the husband mutter under his breath “WELL WHY THE HELL DIDN’T YOU !!!”
7: MAKING ENTIRELY NEW FRIENDS.
There are of course other “Singlees” in exactly the same boat as you are. But many of them will have already fully adjusted to their new life of having to live on their own and are not actually looking for new friends. In this case, you might perhaps feel that you were ‘Barging In’ as it were. As far as eating habits go, many ‘old-time ‘Singlees’ will have already gravitated to the Communal Dining Room for their culinary requirements or have possible ‘unearthed’ a lonely widow who is only too glad to be able to cater for their eating requirements as an outlet for her sense of ‘Social-Service’..
On the other hand, you may come across other brand-spanking new widowers, such as yourself, and you can be jolly good mental support for each other and, because of this, find other interests in common and eventually become firm friends. You will, for instance, be able to ‘swap notes’ and even have a laugh over some of your new experiments and ‘escapades’. You will both certainly have a lot in common as regards where to shop, what to buy, where and how to eat, in fact just about all the things I am covering in these notes.
Then there are instances where lonely old Widows may think that you are after their money. Or you could get the exact reverse where lonely old Widows are after yours!!!
8: CHANGING HABITS
Now is the time to change a lot of your previous habits. Some of them will, of course, be forced upon you without any option.(eating habits and so on). But, and this is a very BIG ‘but’, now you have the world at your feet, and you can try out all sorts of new things, and, if these don’t work, so what!,,, simply revert to ‘Plan “B” ’ (without a female voice saying “I told you so!”).
When your wife was around, you can imagine her telling her friends “ You know what Howard tried to do the other day? He actually tried to ——————–“ and so on. Then to finish off with something like: “ I told him it would not work, but you know my old man, he never listens, he just has to do it his way!”
9: NEW HOBBIES FOR OLD ONES
Tied up somewhat with “HABITS ’ is “HOBBIES” and you will find that these change drastically! Old hobbies that you considered the very heart of your existence suddenly become meaningless!
Take Gardening for instance, , , , I suddenly realized that “Gardening” is a SHARED interest. , In the past, I would spend hours coaxing peas to grow, hoeing around the roots, spraying with insecticide, feeding with fertilizer, manure and compost etc: Then, when we ate these with our meals we would boast to each other “Our OWN HOME-GROWN vegetables”. But now I am on my own, I can buy a huge bag of already shelled frozen peas at the local supermarket that will last me a couple of months with no manual labour of my own involved whatsoever, nor any financial outlay for fertilizers, compost, insecticide and so on. In fact, my life has changed to such an extent I hardly ever go into the garden, hence my loss of interest in planting seedlings each spring and attending to them like a mother hen with her chickens. Fortunately, when I was interested in gardening I planted a lot of perennials that still continue to come up automatically year after year. . The garden therefore only now needs occasional weeding and tidying up (and I even pay a gardener to do this, anyway!).
b: Tailoring (i.e.”Dressmaking”)
The most amazing thing happened, ,, , , One day I was putting my wife’s sewing machine away ‘for keeps’ at the top of a cupboard, never to be looked at again, and I suddenly had a bright idea. ,,, , I would get my daughter Angela (who lived ‘just down the road’ at that time) to show me how to shorten my garters that often needed a tuck in them (and she used to do this for me).. It seemed so easy and she made me make a handkerchief out of a square cut out of an old bed-sheet. This was amazingly successful and easy, much to my surprise.!
Then, one night, as I was getting into my pajama long pants, I noticed that there was only one long seam holding it all together, so, out came the cut-up bed sheet again and I made a very wearable pair of white pajama long pants. .Angela said that I should buy myself a proper pattern and try and make a shirt. This I did from a very helpful local Indian Tailor who was very amused, but very supportive of my adventuresome inroads into the world of tailoring. During all my initial efforts he was a wonderful help and guided me along the right road, pointing out possible pitfalls before they actually occurred..
So, armed with a pattern, material, matching cottons, buttons, dressmaking scissors and an ‘Un-picker’ I set off home full of high hopes. When I tried to read the instructions in the pattern however, they may as well have been written in Chinese! So I discarded the instructions and joined the cut out material together as best I could.. With the aid of Angela, my Indian Tailor friend and other VERY amused ladies in our Village Complex, I very soon found the best way of stitching everything together.(see the story of the ‘Jealous Husband’ above!!!)
The end result after many months of very gradual progress is that I now have over two dozen home-made shirts, all very presentable. On one occasion I was paid a terrific left-handed complement, when I was wearing a rather flamboyant shirt that I had made, and a neighbour said to me “I like your shirt, THAT IS OBVIOUSLY NOT ONE YOU MADE”!! I also discovered, to my advantage, that after making four or five new shirts I had enough left-over material to make myself yet another “patchwork shirt” comprising different coloured squares and oblongs ! (This reminds me of the advert’ “ Buy five and get on free!”). A friend said to me “Why don’t you join a proper sewing class?” I replied “ Well, actually, I would like to gain a bit more experience before I try teaching other people !!”
I also found rescuing old shirts that had been consigned to the rag-bag for cleaning cloths very rewarding. Being South Africa’s most experienced UN-PICKER .(!!!!), I found it very easy to reverse old collars. When these were even too bad to reverse, I used my famous ‘left-overs’ once again to create shirts with different coloured collars and pockets.(A previously discarded khaki shirt to which I attached a blue collar and red pockets turned out very attractive indeed).
c: An Amusing Tailoring Experience
I have had many amusing experiences doing this tailoring business. Once I happened to look down at a shirt I was wearing and saw that one of the bottom corners of the shirt had not been stitched and was still kept in place with safety pins. As the sewing machine happened to have the same coloured cotton loaded at the time I simply fed the corner of the shirt into the sewing machine and started to machine the seam while sill wearing the shirt. Guess what! ,,, I am half way along the seam and THE TELEPHONE RINGS in the next room !! I will leave you to finish this scenario in your own imagination.. Suffice to say, that I made one hell of a mess of the stitching, ,broke the needle, tried to dash to the phone carrying the sewing machine by yanking out the electrical cord, bruised my knee, tore the shirt and missed the telephone call. I then shouted out something at one hundred & twenty decibel that did not sound in the least like “Oh Dear Me Never Mind!!”
d: Another Amusing Tailoring Experience
In another instance, my ‘Over-inflated Dressmaking Ego’ was burst like an ‘Over-inflated Balloon’ insofar as I had just finished making a very nice shirt and was in the act of snipping off a few loose cotton ends. When I finally came to the very last one, my ‘Over-inflated Dressmaking Ego’ made me twirl the scissors in the air and shout out “BINGO!!”. Then snip, snip, but , , , , in so doing, , , I CUT A HUGE “V” IN ONE OF THE SLEEVES WITH THE POINT OF THE SCISSORS!!!!
I leave to your imagination what I said and the volume thereof , , , but I can tell you that it was a 1,000 miles away from any quietly spoken “Oh Dear me, , Never Mind!!”
How are the Mighty Fallen!!!!
10: THE INTERNET
The ‘Internet’ is a great “New Hobby” and I would be quite lost without it. As you see, I have my very own Website ( FREE!!! , , ,from “Wordpress!!) and have put over thirty Articles on it so far. These are based on years of writings gathering dust that I did not know what on earth to do with all. It has, however, turned out to be quite a lot of fun doing it..
I also use the Internet to email Jokes and Wisdom to a little ‘Group’ (now approaching 50 in number) comprised of friends, acquaintances and relations.
I also use the Internet to email Angela my Daughter who lives “up North” at Hartbeespoort Dam just about everyday. I also email folks all over the world from time to time (My Grandson Nicholas and Sandra his wife in the U.K. for instance as well as many other friends in the U. K. and the U.S.A.)
Then I also potter around a bit In Face-book and in Twitter.
I use the Computer itself to compile Spread Sheets for my Investments, and many other activities in which I am involved.
I have only really skimmed the surface of my own entirely new activities and what could happen (and really did happen as a result of these !!). Perhaps my own experience might just give one or two of you enough ammunition to work out a slightly better new life style if you were to suddenly find yourself in the unfortunate position of being SUDDENLY SINGLE.
Even if I have helped only one reader over this hurdle, then I feel that the above has not been all entirely in vein.
For those of you still married and are just skimming through these notes, it will, at least, give you some idea of what to expect, and you will now be a little more prepared.
Finally, for those of you that have gone through this terrible experience and have eventually overcome it, I can very easily imagine some of you nodding and I can hear you say in places:- “Yes, yes, how very true, how very very true!!!”