Tuesday, October 26, 2004

a rainy reunion
It's nearly two years since I left the UK and roughly the same amount of time since I have seen a lot of my friends from Uni. Fortunately there's always someone who eventually gets around to organising a reunion and this weekend we all rolled into our old uni town of Guildford, just as we did a little over 10 years ago as freshers.

I'm glad the reunion was held there since it gave me a chance to pop in and see some other friends too, starting on blustery Saturday afternoon with Kev and Katie. I lived with Kev when I was a trainee here in France in '96, went to their wedding, and have now had the privilege of holding their dark and fluffy two week old daughter Florence.

After buying some Cornish Pasties with Kev to feed a famished Katie, I shivered my soggy way up the steep Farnham Road to dump my bags at a B&B, avoiding the torrents of rain pouring down in the gutters, dragging mulchy autumn leaves along in its race to the bottom of the valley.

I met the Uni gang down at The White House pub by the river around 5pm. A really good crowd turned up with names too many to list here. Of course it was great to see everyone, but I was very pleased to see Rose, Tricky and Steve in particular.

After a short stint up in the lower bar at the university's student union with a varied gang of strange musicians whose party we gatecrashed, we all headed down into town on the old route and ended up in Bar Med. By the time we got there most of us had had a fair skinful so it seemed like a fine place.

Amongst us there was only me and one other guy, Tom, who were single. All the others have more or less been together since university and are married or getting married, sharing houses and stuff. I don't have anything against this at all. Far from it. I am pleased to see so many stable and happy relationships.

The problem is that without fail a sense of loneliness always overtakes me when hanging around with these guys. As my friend of 29 years Nick said when I popped in to see him in Clapham on Friday night, "Well they haven't been away abroad so they're more established". God knows why, but I seem to be a different breed.

Nevertheless I had a great time with them all, bopping away bad club style and guzzling pint upon pint. Luckily, Sunday I woke up without too much of a hangover and managed to get down to the station to scoff an English breakfast before meeting Jennie.

Jennie is my friend and pottery teacher from when I lived in Aldershot at my last job before coming here. We went for a good stroll in the forest with her dappy dog and found some nice Fly Agaric mushrooms and stuff. Amazing what a great easy time we spent together just wandering and chatting, two years later.

I have to say that the flip side of what appears to be a life of extended singledom and ex-patriation seems fortunately to be the gift of some excellent, lasting and durable friendships. The sort of friendships that stay ripe, never have a moment that they go past and then fade away.

The same goes for my family, who I popped in to see later on Sunday and all of yesterday. Great Gordon is in the DGH and I went to see him. As I left I touched his arm and he reacted with an emotional gesture. Since Gordon is a man who has spent his life stoically hiding all emotion and flinching at physical contact, this was precious moment.

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