Christine Webber

“Bank holiday are total hell.”

These were the opening words in a conversation I had with a friend the other day.

“Sundays are bad enough,” she went on. “But all these long weekends really get me down.” 

Elizabeth (not her real name) is divorced and in her sixties. She has two adult children with families, but one lot live in Australia and the other in Wales. 

The three-day weekend of the coronation, in particular, was a lot to face up to for many people – particularly older individuals who find themselves single at this stage in life.

Several have told me how, though there were street parties, firework displays, and other celebrations going on in their locality, it was still a difficult time. 

Elizabeth, for example, said she often can’t face going to such events because she feels she has to look bright and breezy and be full of personality and chat, and try somehow to attach herself to groups of local people who are often comprised of couples.

I’m sure she would be much more welcome than she believes but, as with many mature men and women whose circumstances have changed, her confidence has taken a knock. 

She watched the coronation alone, despite having an invitation from neighbours to join them. She felt she would be better on her own and was sure she’d enjoy the pageantry and music, which she did.

But afterwards, she felt a horrid sinking feeling of “What now?” Because for decades, she would have had her husband around, and would have made supper for them both, and possibly invited friends in for a drink.  

Elizabeth is not a loser. She used to hold down a very stressful job. She’s sociable and has a fine circle of friends, but weekends and bank holidays underline her single status, and it distresses her. I know other readers feel the same.   

Last week, I gave a Positive Ageing talk to a U3A group of vibrant, interesting, sparky people and discovered that around half of their membership of 200 were single – mostly through widowhood or divorce.

After the talk, I had a chance to chat with some of them. They were obviously proactive folk, making the most of their lives, yet many quietly admitted that they have days when they don’t see anyone, because they don’t want to impose, or because they can’t face having to make the arrangements.   

And that’s a big issue, isn’t it? The fact that having a social life when you’re single takes lots of effort.  

Gone are those Sundays when you slept late, had a leisurely breakfast with your partner, and a walk, and simply allowed the day to unfold in its own way – perhaps spontaneously visiting a pub or cinema later.

Now, if we want to be busy at weekends it needs planning. And that can feel tough. 

Quite apart from everything else, sometimes it’s hard to silence negative inner thoughts such as: “I shouldn’t have to do all this on my own”. 

We all find ourselves thinking this way from time to time, but really, it’s not 
helpful. I know life can feel unfair or sad, but we need to put as positive a spin on it as we can – otherwise these ruminations can turn into long-term low mood, which is a nightmare to climb out of.  

Most of us single people know plenty of others who are also alone. Let’s face it there are loads of us about! I think we need to discuss this situation more openly with them and get more arrangements in the diary – especially in a month like this one where there are so many bank holidays to negotiate. 

We have the rest of this week before the last May bank holiday, so why don’t we get our act together and put plans and structure in place in order to avoid the public holiday blues?  

Have a think about what would make the weekend better. It doesn’t have to be about unremitting pleasure, by the way.

One woman I know used the coronation weekend to have a massive clear out and then paint her bedroom. These were activities she’d been putting off for ages. But she got food in. Asked a couple of friends to help. Had lots of laughs and is now hugely pleased with what was achieved.   

What might work for you? Could you get some Zooms planned with your family? Have a massive baking session? Walk somewhere new? Do something with neighbours by day but save some solo treats like having a soak in the bath with oils and candles for evenings? Listen to a concert? Read a new book? Arrange a singles supper in your kitchen, or a group-visit to a tea shop or pub? 

The most important thing really is to establish in your mind which parts of the three days are the most problematic for you – and then make sure you have lots of ideas with which to fill those times.  

This is a good and responsible way to care for yourself. And that’s what you should be doing – because you’re worth it.