Solo Supplement: an unexpected guest at my table

When dining out alone, I’m used to having something with me to keep me occupied when I’m not eating. As I say in my book, Solo Success! You CAN do things on your own, “The last thing you want is to be sitting alone at a table with nothing to do but stare around at all the other customers.” I like people watching but you have to be discrete, don’t you? And there’s only so much looking out the window you can do before getting a stiff neck – if you are lucky enough to be sitting at a window. But, be careful that you don’t concentrate on your own distraction too much, so that you miss the memorable moments that are happening around you.

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On holiday in Lanzarote recently, I took my own advice and also took a crossword puzzle book with me to dinner at a local Canarian restaurant. Between finishing my starter and the main course arriving, I was engrossed in trying to solve a difficult cryptic clue. So engrossed, in fact, that I almost missed the excitement that everyone else saw, but to which I was oblivious. It was only when a small, wide-eyed boy saying, “Wow!” walked into my field of vision to get a better look, that I became aware of a bit of a hubbub, and followed his gaze.

A bird had flown into the dining area through the open patio doors and settled on the back of the chair at a right angle to mine. Not just any bird either. Not a common pigeon or scary gull. It was a startling white with a magnificent white crest and long tail feathers, long beak and a beady eye. We appraised each other silently: my dumbstruck gaze met his growing sense of alarm as people were moving towards and pointing camera phones at us – well just at the bird probably. Within seconds the bird had lifted off from the back of the chair, and taken a precarious flight out of the restaurant, miraculously avoiding any diners.

One of those diners had managed to take a photo of exactly that moment when the bird lifted off from the back of the chair and showed it to me. There is the bird, captured mid-wingbeat with his legs dangling almost casually after the exertion of his elevation. And there was I, with an expression of blank incomprehension. Other diners and the waiting staff gathered around to see the photo, and we all marvelled at the way the bird had been caught mid-flight, and laughed at my expression!! Those who spoke English said things to me like, “You had your head in your book!”; “It was waiting for you to take notice!”; “You nearly missed it!”

Yes, I nearly missed it, all because I was not taking enough notice of my surroundings. Perhaps that was because I was a woman dining alone who didn’t want to be seen to be visibly alone.. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself, so I put all my attention into the crossword. I apparently cared more about what other people might think of me, than I did about my own comfort and wellbeing. It took a beautiful white bird to join me at my dining table to remind me that I owed it to myself to sit back and relax. I was on holiday, after all! I needed to take a sip of wine and enjoy the view of the ocean, and the sound of the busy kitchen; to smile at, and make eye contact with, the other diners. In other words: remember everyday not to miss out by missing any moments – be in, and live every single one of them!

PS: I later found out that the bird was a Heron native to the Canary Islands – the breed has shorter legs than the Herons we are used to over here. It looked a bit like the bird on the cover photo.

Christine Ingall

11 May 2018

Christine Jane Ingall

Solo lifestyle expert, author, speaker and blogger, Cjiwrites

After unexpectedly living alone for 30 years, and realised I knew a lot about how to make sure it didn't blight your life. I wrote a self-help guide. "Solo Success! You CAN do things on your own", published in 2017. I use my experience to help people to get rid of the fear of being visibly alone in a couple-centric society, so that they can gain the confidence to go out and do things on their own. Everyday activities such as going out for a tea or coffee, going to the cinema or for a walk. Since my book's publication I have contributed articles to print and online publications, radio broadcasts and presented at events, including a workshop at The Best You Expo 2018. For latest see