Loneliness

English: The loneliness of Culloden Culloden i...
English: The loneliness of Culloden Culloden is one of the few areas that I leave feeling full of sadness. This lonely tree at the sight says it all. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Robinson Crusoe was marooned for years on a tropical island. At first he succumbs to despair, but later he starts to make things easier for himself, at first rescuing goods from the shipwreck which is fortunately accessible at least for a while on a reef.

He has no one to talk to, until Friday, but he is kept busy just surviving. This business, wondering where the next meal was coming from, how to provide himself with shelter, all the minutiae of just living would have initially staved off all sense of loneliness.

Robinson crusoe rescues friday-1868
Robinson crusoe rescues friday-1868 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Later on though, when his immediate needs were catered for, he must have reflected on the fact that he was totally alone on the island. (I read the book years ago, and I’m speculating – I can’t recall if he ever got into a philosophical mood or not). It would have been a driver to explore the island and finding no other people would have been a blow.

People in general need other people. In the book Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Ben Gunn is marooned on an island for years and become slightly unhinged by the loneliness. He spent a lot of the time on the island dreaming of one thing – cheese. However, he does not completely lose his senses and is able to take part in the events that follow.

The Black Spot. Illustration by N. C. Wyeth fo...
The Black Spot. Illustration by N. C. Wyeth for Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1911 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some people choose to isolate themselves from the rest of the human race, mainly, it seems for religious reasons. It is possible for such hermits to voluntarily return to the human race, something which is not possible for those who are marooned on an island, and this may make the separation more bearable.

The reason that hermits choose to isolate themselves from the human race is so that they can concentrate or religious or spiritual matters without being distracted by the minutiae of human life. Obviously they still need to eat and perform bodily functions, but those can be kept to a minimum and the hermits mind can be free to concentrate on one thing for much of their waking moments.

English: St.Martin in Memmingen. Choir stalls:...
English: St.Martin in Memmingen. Choir stalls: Portrait of a hermit Deutsch: St.Martin in Memmingen. Chorgestühl: Porträt eines Eremiten. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While human companionship can help to keep one sane, the constant interruptions to one’s train of thought can be distracting or irritating. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was writing the poem “Kubla Khan” when he was distracted by a person from Porlock and the poem was not completed as originally Coleridge envisaged.

Computer programmers often find that when they are concentrating on their task they will “enter the zone or the flow“. This is an almost trance-like state where the programmer is totally immersed in the task at hand, and the interruptions of normal life are not welcomed. A programmer in the zone may regard time spent on sleep, food and other necessities as unimportant, and this is why programmers sometimes subsist on coffee or energy drinks, and eat pizza and other fast foods that can be ordered in.

The immersive effects of the zone are not only felt in programming, I believe. Programming is in many ways an art, and I can imagine that the same is true of the other arts, such as painting and writing, as the example of Coleridge suggests, though he was using opium at the time he was writing Kubla Khan.

The feeling of being in the zone is, for the most part, intensely solo. While two or more programmers can work simultaneously of the same piece of code, this is much more difficult to achieve. I’ve seen programmers team up and program, but the feeling of being in the zone is much more fragile when more than one person is involved.

English: Programmer
English: Programmer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In contrast, debugging a malfunctioning piece of code can be easier for two or more, as the different insights broaden and direct the flow into areas that neither would have thought of by themselves but in general the immersion is not so deep.

Quite often an isolated person, say a shipwrecked person, or an elderly or sick person who is not mobile and therefore spends a lot of time alone, will have an animal as a companion. The little old lady has one or more cats. The shipwrecked or marooned person may have a dog. A companion animal eases the separation from the human race.


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A lonely person may pick an unusual animal as a companion. Some sources suggest that Michael Jackson made a pet of a rat and that his father killed it, but this story is muddled with the story behind his hit song “Ben”.

An isolated person may talk to the animal in default of being able to talk to other human, and may unwisely attribute human traits to the animal. If the person is alone with the animal for too long he or she may come to believe that the animal responds either verbally or by actions.

An albino pet rat eating a piece of bread.
An albino pet rat eating a piece of bread. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes an isolated person may imagine a fictitious companion, either totally invented or based on a real person. He or she may act out what he believes that the imaginary person would act out. In the film “Psycho” Norman Bates assumes and acts out the identity of his dead mother, who he killed 10 years earlier. Bates was isolated by his mental illness, and not by being physically isolated.

There are various causes of isolation – it may be unintentional, as in a shipwreck, or it may be intentional as when a sailor is marooned for mutiny, or a person may be isolated as a result of sickness, either mental or physical, or it may be a side-effect of old age. A person may be isolated by deafness or blindness, or physical inability to move.

Blind Girl
Blind Girl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, some people seek isolation in the form of “peace and quiet”. If a person is highly stressed in their day-to-day life, they may find themselves looking forward to immersing themselves in a book, or taking a bath, or in any of hundreds of ways of isolating themselves from the general hubbub of human society. Possibly with a reasonable supply of alcohol to hand, merely to aid the relaxation of course.

English: Peace and quiet This part of the trac...
English: Peace and quiet This part of the track is very quiet apart from birdsong, the gateway on the left is about four feet wide, small enough for animals to pass through when the farmers and lead miners had horses and carts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back to the beginning – Cheese Scones.

Cheese scones
Cheese scones

I think that the first thing that I ever cooked was cheese scones. They are an ideal project to start cooking on as they are so simple. I’m not going to mention the actual recipe that I used since there are probably millions of them and they all work pretty well. Basically cheese scones are made from flour (usually self-raising), some shortening (butter, margarine, oil), a small amount of liquid (water or milk), some baking soda (to give the typical scone ‘tang’), salt and a little mustard to taste and of course cheese, usually a fairly strong variety.

They are simple and quick to make and cook and equally simple and quick to eat! I like them hot with butter and apparently so do most people, and in fact I doubt that many scones get to cool to room temperature! If you fancied it, you could add a touch of chili I guess, or some ham or prosciutto. Of course, they don’t have to be cheese scones – I’ve always liked date scones. I suspect that with sweet scones you’d need to reduce or remove the baking soda though.

Anyway my efforts are shown above and below. The pictures don’t really show how toasty brown they were. They look a little pallid in the pictures. I can assure you that they tasted great!

Cheese Scones
Cheese Scones

(I intend to try to post to this blog at least once a week – I haven’t posted since the end of last month and that is not good!)

Stuffed Baked Potatoes

Found at https://i1.wp.com/i-cdn.apartmenttherapy.com/uimages/kitchen/2011-09-28-BakedPotato.jpg
Unfortunately these are not my baked potatoes. Click to see the source page.

Well, cheesy baked potatoes would be more accurate. I took two large potatoes, washed them and pierced them, and stuck them in the oven at 220 degrees centigrade. I checked them at 30 minutes, at 45 minutes, and one hour and still they weren’t completely done! Maybe they were too big. Almost certainly they were too big.

When they were done (I thought) I hollowed out the potatoes and mashed the innards and added the cheese. Then I put the cheesy mix back into the potatoes and put the potatoes back in the oven for 15 minutes.

As it turned out, while the top part of the potatoes was fully cooked, the bottom parts were OK, but could have done with a bit more cooking. Who would have thought that simple baked potatoes could have been such an issue?

IMG_20130317_132901
Baked potatoes with cheese

The lessons I’ve learned is to use smaller potatoes – large ones take a long time. Also, I think I should have turned the potatoes at least once.

IMG_20130317_132910
Cheesy potatoes

As usual I looked on the Internet for advice. To summarize the advice there, I could have wrapped the potatoes in foil, or zapped them in the microwave. If I take either of these approaches in the future, I could finish them off in the oven to crisp the skin before removing the innards and stuffing them.