A good friend was talking the other day about how she is trying to give one of her children a bit more independence now that they are at secondary school. It reminded me that, once upon a time, being left in the house on my own was a treat to be savoured.
I was nine or ten years old when my parents first left me by myself. I didn’t have a door key, so I was under strict instructions both to stay in the house and not to open the front door to anyone. Aside from that, I had the run of my home.
I don’t know how long the rest of the family were gone, but it was long enough for me to get bored with my own company. I therefore decided to play a little trick. I knew that everyone would come home via the back door, because we almost always used that door if there was someone in the house. I took two tall wooden stools – shorter than the average bar stool but taller than a chair, and light blue padded tops – and placed them either side of the kitchen door, on the hallway side. Then I tied a length of string or wool between them. On the top of each I put a shallow orange plastic bowl of water. The idea was, of course, that someone unsuspecting would walk through the doorway and into the string, causing water to splash over them.
It was a rubbish prank, of course. The stools were visible from the back door and as the family had been shopping no-one was going to be moving at speed anyway, laden as they were with groceries.
My parents were most unhappy at all of this and even though I had done nothing else in their absence to offend them immediately decreed that I was clearly not yet mature enough to be left on my own*. As a result I had to endure at least another year of almost weekly shopping trips before I was allowed to be on my own again.
*I’m still not. Last week I spent half an hour sat outside Mum and Dad’s house because I couldn’t remember the alarm code. I almost fried in my car before I remembered that I could just open a window.