Solitude is by no means a homogeneous concept.
Indeed, the idea of being alone; of becoming separated from others, or isolated in some way, has different connotations for everyone. For some, the very idea of solitude evokes fear and unhappiness. For others it represents a state of bliss and enlightenment. A mixture of both is perhaps more accurate for most, and the tension between these fluctuating dimensions is played out daily in the life of Miss Pilchard.
Miss Pilchard is a middle-aged spinster of indeterminate age. She wears tweed, enjoys literature and is a fiercely private person. She also likes cricket, dancing the Charleston and sitting on vacant benches. Scarborough; the town in which she currently resides, offers plenty of the latter, alongside stunning views and plenty of beautiful countryside, all of which greatly appeal to our lady in question.
Originally hailing from a mill town in Derbyshire, Miss Pilchard has long eschewed the conventions of marriage and children that haunt her peers, instead opting for a life of quiet solitude. Dwelling alone in a small, shabby, but cosy bedsit, she lives a simple existence dictated by meagre wages and a dislike of anything excessive or ostentatious.
As with many shy, sensitive people, who prefer books, peace, and meaningful conversation, Miss Pilchard has found herself at odds with those around her, settling into an existence that requires her to re-frame consequence as choice; thus finding solitude invigorating and empowering. Without the responsibilities of a family, or a demanding social life, she is free to pursue a diverse range of pastimes.
Sometimes her illusion crumbles. The stark reality of loneliness rears its head – at this point the agency that underpins solitude is replaced by an overwhelming sense of rejection. Humans are, on the whole, inherently social beings. We are drawn together; not just to reproduce, but also to protect one another, to be part of something bigger than ourselves. When relationships dissolve or do not exist to begin with, life can seem hopeless and meaningless. Then again, being stranded on the outer realms of the social world can offer great insight…
…but often at the cost of sanity and well-being.
Indeed, solitude might be a consequence or cause of madness:
Or perhaps the beginning of a creative journey:
Spiritual quests and pilgrimages have historically embraced the idea of solitude…
However, solitude does not necessary deliver what those who seek it, desire.
Sarah Coggrave is a resident artist at Crescent Arts in Scarborough. She has dedicated vast amounts of time to the documentation of Miss Pilchard’s antics, and even moved from Manchester to Scarborough to continue her coverage of the spinster’s journey. She believes that Miss Pilchard’s life of solitude illustrates the hazards of minimal interaction with others, but also the resulting creativity and humour. There is still much to be learned from her.
In the meantime, Miss Pilchard can occasionally be spotted in Scarborough, usually around the Esplanade.
1. The lady in question © Sarah Coggrave/Miss Pilchard
2. Stunning views in Scarborough © Sarah Coggrave/Miss Pilchard
3. Enjoying her own company? © Sarah Coggrave/Miss Pilchard
4. But at what cost? © Sarah Coggrave/Miss Pilchard
5. Solitude as lifestyle © Sarah Coggrave/Miss Pilchard
6. Not so glamorous? © Sarah Coggrave/Miss Pilchard
7. Isolation enables insight? © Sarah Coggrave/Miss Pilchard
8. Trapped in an insular world? © Sarah Coggrave/Miss Pilchard
10. It’s a jolly holiday © Sarah Coggrave/Miss Pilchard
11.The moment of enlightenment © Sarah Coggrave/Miss Pilchard
12. No holy grail © Sarah Coggrave/Miss Pilchard
13. But at the very least, a beautiful sunrise © Sarah Coggrave/Miss Pilchard
Sarah Coggrave, 4th August 2014.