We would be leaving much behind in this loose plan, whatever it transpires to be. In some instances it will be a relief, we acquire so much over the years, my loft doesn’t need additional insulation as the numerous bags and boxes supplement the layers of vermiculite and wadding. There are some things, material and non about which we can be quite ambivalent. It can be a good lesson in letting go of non-essentials but there are some aspects of my current life I will sorely miss. Top of this list will undoubtedly be my friends.
Whilst I always feel to be playing catch-up when trying to see them I do have quite a busy social life primarily based around going out for a meal and chat, not necessarily doing anything in particular although I do go to weekly Zumba class with one friend and T’ai chi with another. Although I see these two co-conspirators most often it is surprising how little time we have to catch-up with each other’s news as the journeys to and from are relatively brief and little chatting takes place whilst there. We often say that we must just go out for an evening to talk so that we don’t miss out on each other’s news and that of our respective off-spring who are of an age to be doing exciting things in all corners of the globe, but it rarely materialises.
When deciding who to invite to my 50th birthday a couple of years ago I was able to focus on who my true friends were, how long I’d known them, why we were friends and how would I manage without them. I do think there is some basis to the cliché that we have some friends for a reason, some for a season and some for a lifetime. We rarely know into which category our friends will fall until the end of the relationship but we can hope and endeavour to preserve such a prized asset but unfortunately I must admit that I have lost some friendships over the years through lack of effort. The Christmas-card-only people are testament to this but it is compounded by the stresses and diverging directions our lives take.
I had hired a National Trust bunkbarn in the Peak District for my birthday weekend at the end of July and was blessed with lovely weather. There was only one person who felt that the basic level of comfort was below their threshold but not for insignificant personal reasons. 2 others were unable to come as they had prior arrangements so I was very lucky that everyone else I had invited was both able and prepared to rough-it. One old school friend checked if there was an en-suite and I was able to reassure him that there was, but only added later that he would be sharing it with the 7 other strangers (apart from his wife) from his ‘dorm’! Fortunately for me he wasn’t deterred, as he and his wife were my oldest friends having been all through senior school together before they decided to tie the knot a couple of years after we all moved on.
I have picked up a disparate group of comrades over the successive 30 years, many of whom didn’t know each other but are perhaps better acquainted since that weekend than they expected. Communal living does breakdown all barriers and I’m delighted to say that everyone had a super time, even though some were initially apprehensive. A significant proportion of them are previous or current work colleagues most from various health care settings, including one who I’ve never actually worked with but we had the misfortune to share a Masters degree course and were able to support each other through successfully, though rather belatedly, in our 40s. Some were from being a fairly active member of a golf club for many years and despite no longer playing I’m delighted to maintain a close friendship with them. One friend was a fellow attendee at ante-natal classes, we produced the only boys from the group and although we all met up twice a year until they were 16 this has now fizzled out but we two remain close.
I feel very fortunate to have made some new friends, I don’t know why it should be a surprise but having been in the same job for 14 years I seemed to have limited opportunity to meet new people. However we had a ‘holiday romance’. I took my son and his friend on a ski-ing holiday to a chalet hotel. Our dinner places were allocated for us and having scared off a young couple who requested and spent the whole of the rest of the holiday on a table a deux, ourselves and the other couple felt somewhat marginalised as we five were a significantly smaller group than all the other tables, all of which sat eight to ten people. However the following night we were joined by another couple who had been shunted off a different table to make way for a celeb(!) and the regional manager on the pretext that she needed extra room for her leg which was now in a splint. By the end of the week my other fellow female was in the same state. We didn’t look back and I can count both couples as good friends which is a rarity from all those glib statements and swapping of e-mails and Facebook addresses which seem to be de rigour at the completion of an enjoyable holiday.
So how will I manage without them all? With whom will I share a bottle of wine and some lovely food? What if I’ve run out of conversation with him? Who will listen to me, sympathise but not instruct? Who will value my opinion, or come to me for help and make me feel useful? Will we be able to see them? I doubt we will be able to offer much concrete hospitality. Will we make new friends? Will every new person we meet speak a foreign language or be young enough to be our offspring? The internet and mobile phones have made trans-continental communication so easy within a lifetime, so much so that we take it for granted; provided the service is available at a reasonable price. Assuming access to communication links are available, even if only once a week, I should be able to maintain that important contact with friends and family, hear their news, ensure that they are keeping well and provide any succour possible albeit remotely. I think a GPS unit may be an option but will have to investigate that idea further with him. Satellite units don’t seem so new-fangled since watching the base station traverse the night sky whilst lying on my back in the middle of the English Channel searching for shooting stars. It isn’t just the solid planet which is getting smaller, our boundaries are expanding into space at an exponential rate, not quite ‘Infinity and Beyond’ just yet.