It’s been a busy Bank Holiday weekend so far. Not least because yesterday we drove up from Oxford to Helwith Bridge, for a Jubilee Barbecue. It threw it down with rain the whole day.
The rain, I think, was pretty much inevitable from the point at which Mal announced he was moving the annual barbecue forwards from the August Bank Holiday to the June one in the hope that he’d actually get some sun this year. It rains every single time Mal runs a barbecue.
(It’s not raining here, because this photo is taken neither at a barbecue nor at Mal’s house. But it is a good photo of the guy, and he has a nice coat).
I’m not entirely convinced that Dan and Ruth, who I dragged out of the house at 09:00 hours, were entirely convinced, when we got back home at 23:56 that the 465-mile round trip had been entirely worth it for the three and a half hours we spent sitting inside an old mill and having barbecued food brought in to us by people who braved the wind and rain to save us from going outside.
I, on the other hand, am listing yesterday as one of the top five bits of good work I’ve managed this year. It turns out it’s been five years since I made it up there, and as well as meeting some cool young people (I’d forgotten, in the years since I was 18, just how very certain I was about everything, and it’s kinda sweet to see someone so idealistic and full of determination, and be able to see how nice they’ll be once they’ve got a few corners knocked off) it was nice how strongly I felt that it couldn’t possibly have been that lond.
More than that, though, I feel better for having seen Mal, and other old friends like John C and John B (one of my earliest understandings of the complexities of life was the day I was told John was coming down to visit, and then discovered that the other John had come instead. Valuable lesson about the importance of filing by surname, that was). Plus, of course, John C was the guy who picked my up and carried me, howling, back down to the house, the time I tried to set up an obstacle course in the garden and ran full-tilt at a broom balanced on a pair of bricks, failed to clear the jump and stripped the skin from both my palms when I rejoined the path on the other side. And Mal recounted a humerous but embarrasing story from a time when I was very small and didn’t know any better.
I don’t see these people often enough, but I like it when I do, and they’re very old family friends so it feels important that I do so. (Yay! Issues!) Plus, after the past few weeks, which if they haven’t been the worst I’ve weathered, have nevertheless been Godawful, it’s good to be reminded that there are representatives of the previous generation who aren’t seriously imbalanced.
In response to some phenomenal asshattery from crazy relatives I’ve found I called in a lot of favours in the past few weeks, and it got me thinking: I am really glad that life is not like the Sims. Especially Sims 2. I find the Sims kinda fun, if I’m honest, because you can create some wonderfully art deco houses, but Sims 2 had a real problem, because it was impossible to have any friends in it. Or, rather, you could have friends in it, and often needed them for career progression, but they were all abhorent narcissists and if you didn’t call them up every day, or spend at least half of your free time with them in any given week, they’d go away and sulk and become “distant friends”.
(It was usually easier for me to ramp all my skills up over a period of time, create a house of 10-or-so clones, dump them in a neighbourhood and grind the befriending process until I got to the top of the career tree than it was to play “properly” – because you only need to take a couple of days where you didn’t call them before they’d decide you’d never been friends in the first place, regardless of how long you’d spent maintaing the relationship in the past.) In Sims 3, they’ve fixed this a bit because you can spend some of the “happy points” you build up on a perk called “make the game like real life, which ensures that friends never become distant friends, even if you don’t have time to call them on a nightly basis. I think it’s awesome that real people can manage to work like that: I’ve not seen Mansbridge since his wedding, nor for about five years before that, but within ten minutes of catching up with him at his reception I was mocking him for something or other and he was trying to punch me, and it was like we’d never been apart. It’s an awesome thing when that happens.
That was nicely in evidence yesterday, because I’ve not seen Mal for a little over 18 months, and I’ve not seen Christine for five years, and I think I last saw John B at some point in the early 90s, but we all seemed to get on OK, and sure there was a bit of procedural upkeep while we updated each other on stuff, but it never felt awkward: things just slotted back in to the dynamic.
It’s nice when that happens. It’s important, too, since I’m such a terrible correspondent (I have emails sat unread in my inbox so I can reply to them which have been there since October, no joke). It’s even nicer when I can call in a favour (and by that I mean “request a favour, since I still owe him for getting help when I broke my wrist in 1995″) from someone I’ve not seen in person for about a decade and a half, and it’s nice that when I did drop Jason a message to get some advice on his special area of expertise he didn’t mind and he just dug up the information and passed it on and hoped I was OK. Probably not for my sake, I think, because strictly he doesn’t really know me that well anymore, but he did it for the sake of the friendship we used to have.
I got to thinking this way because I think that’s why it’s important to give people good funerals. It probably doesn’t make much odds to the actual deceased, and I know it’s often valuable for the bereaved, but I think it’s good to be able to demonstrate, too, that this person was worth the effort. What existed between you doesn’t exist in the same way any more, but for the sake of what it was, it’s important to take the time to do what you can.
I do like Mal, and I had a good time yesterday, but I couldn’t say how much of the time I invested in that trip, or how much of the fun I had, was being paid off by the knowledge I was doing keeping an old friendship alive even after one of the friends in it had died. And, the brilliant thing is, it doesn’t matter. Because of what it was, I’m doing what I can to honour it. But because I’m taking the time to honour it, it’s turning into a really solid friendship.
‘s funny how that works. Makes me kinda hopeful.
Anyway. I should really be trying to get a totally different blog updated. But the About Me was giving me gyp, so I figured I’d come over here and be introspective. And now I’ll go away again, possibly for a very long time, and when I come back the blog will still be here and we can pick up where we left off. Hooray!