Buying tickets to an exhibition, film or West End show always makes me nervous.
‘Is that two tickets?’ the assistant often assumes.
I usually whisper ‘No, just the one, thanks’ and scurry off inside, hoping no one hears.
Last summer, I decided to go to the England v Wales Rugby World Cup warm-up game. I was feeling hopeful, so I opted for two tickets this time.
I’ll find a rugby nut to come with me, I thought – it’s one of the biggest games of the season. I asked around the office, slipped it into conversation with neighbours and even asked fellow dog-walkers at my local park.
Yet, the day came around and, as usual, I was left with a spare. I couldn’t face watching my favourite sport without a fellow fan cheering in my ear.
Extrovert… but lonely: Mark Gaisford, who can’t find friends despite being a ‘joker’ at work
In the end, I stayed home alone and watched it on TV instead.
But I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. I am not a recluse, a weirdo, or elderly. In fact, I am a 52-year-old married man and have two grown-up children, Jack, 23, and Jemma, 20.
But I don’t have any friends. Not one. Colleagues are ten-a-penny – I have 40,000 connections on the professional networking website LinkedIn.
BUILD A WARDROBE... OR FIX A CAR
Men’s Sheds is a charity that helps men set up group-activity workshops in ‘sheds’ – usually community spaces such as empty offices or garages.
LEARN TO COOK WITH A GROUP OF GUYS
Cookery courses for small groups of older men, run by chef Robin Van Creveld.
Contact him via communitychef.org.uk for details and prices.
PLAY A GAME OF WALKING FOOTBALL
Aimed at the over-50s, the five- or six-a-side football games specifically outlaw any running, making the sport accessible to those with compromised mobility.
thewfa.co.uk, from £5
MAKE NEW PALS ON A CHARITY BIKE RIDE
Ever fancied parachuting or cycling 200 miles with a group for a good cause? Global organisation Round Table helps you do just that.
roundtable.co.uk, first meeting is free.
I speak to acquaintances every day at work about spreadsheets, numbers and targets in my job as CEO of a recruitment business. I’m perhaps the most outgoing on the team, and I like to see myself as the joker of the bunch. But when the clock hits 5pm on a Friday and the twentysomethings disappear off to the pub, I – their boss – slink off home alone.
My wife spends weekends working away and my children have long moved out.
I take the dogs for a walk and go to the gym, maybe tidy up the garden – all solitary activities.
Come Sunday night, I am miserable as sin and sick to death of the sound of my own thoughts. What I would give to call up a mate to ask if he fancied a pie and a pint. But, apparently, it’s not that easy for us middle-aged men.
One in five of us has no close friends – twice as many as the percentage for women, according to a September 2019 YouGov poll.sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more
Charity Age UK says the problem has got considerably worse in the past decade, with 50 per cent more men admitting to feelings of loneliness. But even more concerning is the potential impact on our health.
A lack of close relationships perhaps explains the shocking rate of male suicide in Britain. Middle-aged men are three times more likely to kill themselves than are women of