Friday, 22 April 2016


"Then Túrin became weary, and he looked about him, and knew the bitterness of exile; and for all the light and laughter of the Elven-halls his thought turned to Beleg and their life in the woods, and thence far away, to Morwen in Dor-lómin in the house of his father; and he frowned, because of the darkness of his thoughts, and made no answer to Saeros." J.R.R. Tolkien, The Children of Húrin, chapter V.

Far be it from me to add to where Tolkien left off but I can imagine this very vividly. Túrin would have turned away and sighed a heavy sigh, and felt as though his heart had been pierced by a burning lance. A shadow, scarce to be concealed, would then come over his fair countenance, the sun would become wan amidst the day, and he would long to be far, far away. This is called loneliness, and if my description of it resonates with you, then God knows I understand it too well. Like Túrin, I feel lonely most often in the company of others. On those rare occasions that I go to church, at work. I have felt it at a friend's house in the deep country; I have felt it at parties (that is in those far off days when I was still tolerable enough to be invited to them). I feel especially lonely in town. It seems ironic that we might feel lonely in the company of others, surrounded by people. One thinks naturally that the tonic for loneliness is people. But there is a distinction between the state of being alone and being lonely. There are times when my mind wanders, through bucolic idylls into cathedral churches in the time gone by, but then I come back, either to an empty room or to my workplace, and whatever pleasure I took in my mind's palace is gone.

Is there a cure for loneliness? Because it clearly isn't people.

Art: Ted Nasmith. It depicts the unfortunate events that took place the morning after Túrin felt the bitterness of exile.


  1. I don't think there is a universal solution, but loneliness needs to become solitude - like I find in my boat at sea or on a long hike. Solitude is also the condition in monastic spirituality where you find God - and his divinity within you. Then you can see how you get on with other people and in what conditions... Just my pennyworth.

    1. I went to my friend Nina's 25th birthday in October 2012, and I don't think I ever felt so lonely in my life. It took place in a private club in Essex, and I was pretty much on my own all evening, while she was dancing and drinking and having a good laugh with her other friends. There were two gay men there, who looked aghast at me, and I don't think that Nina's girl friends cared for me much. I slipped off after just over an hour feeling deflated and humiliated.

      I feel this at church too. Whenever I go to Ennismore Gardens, I am surrounded by Slavs, who share a common language and culture. What time would they have for me? Oh, it's liturgically impressive (sometimes), but if that comes at the expense of feeling isolated and out-of-place, I'd rather stay at home. I hardly think that truth, grace and constancy is carried to these shores by working class, insular Russians who make fun of my appearance.

  2. I think this is where you need to think of some of the things Quentin Crisp said. He got beaten up and alienated, but he set out to surprise, shock and not care whether other people could put him in a category or not. My wife called me "inclassable" this evening, neither Bohemian nor "chic". But one can get very lonely by being alienated just about everywhere. Indeed, as St Paul said "We have no abiding city". It's something we have to live with unless you want to enter the competition and conformity game, which you may well not win...