On Friendship

If you’re ever in my home town on December 30th and you happen to drive past the church around 1 or 2pm,  you might well see a group of twenty-somethings walking towards to the churchyard. They will walk solemnly, in a file, hand in hand, shoulder by shoulder. They will stop by the grave in the very last row on your right and you can see the group gather around the couple in the middle, creating a neat half circle around her, him and his father. As the rain mists our faces and our eyes we stand in silence. 

I agree: it seems a strange way to end three days of debauchery.

For the last ten years we have been using the days between Boxing Day and New Years Eve to spend time together. Of course as we changed over the years, our friendship evolved similarly and yes, perhaps we are closer to some than others, yet we still all join the festivities. In less philosophical terms this means: set up camp at groupsaccommodation, watch films projected on a sheet on the wall – our beamer gives us an inhouse cinema, drink (a lot of) beer, cook 3 course meals together, eat together, sleep in one room together and play games. 

With these I do not just mean boardgames, I mean elaborate games which take couple of days to play and take months of preparation. In the past we have had Real-life Cluedo, several variations on television game shows, competitions between the boys and girls, three day quests where we get the clues through pre-made DVD’s, CD’s and other messages.  We compete for stock, coins, relics or points by solving puzzles, codes or by three leg races,  treasure hunts in the woods or by participating in our own X-factor style beer cantus. (To those unfamiliar: cantus = singing, beer = well, any alcohol – you do the maths.) The competition is fierce, the organising committee’s always wrong, we quarrel, we protest, we banter and we laugh – god we laugh a lot.

Still, on the 30th of December you can find us at the churchyard standing silently in the rain. Each of us different, we stand together alone with our thoughts. Eyes mist up with memories of loved ones lost and the excruciating heartache of inevitable losses still to come. Hands are squeezed, arms pull waists closer, kisses are placed on foreheads.

Together we celebrate friendship in its entirety and by standing there we renew our vows: to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.

Ms Sarandon

Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins have split after a relationship of twenty years. Apparently they managed to keep this from the press for a couple of months as her spokesperson has released a statement that indicated that the event had happened this summer. The article on the BBC website then sums up the places where Susan Sarandon has recently been over the last few months, I’m sure to bulk out the story but it is almost written with a certain surprise. It really sounds like: despite her separation being mere months ago Susan has still been promoting her film in London and has accepted an award for her work in Sweden. For Pete’s sake, the woman has gone through a break-up, she hasn’t had a lobotomy or a quadruple limb amputation!

Let’s look at this lady: Susan had been married before and was a divorcee by 33. She met Tim when she was 40, he was 12 years younger, that is ladies and gentlemen who are mathematically challenged: 28. Pause for silent admiration. They never married but had two children together and became two of the most political actors in Hollywood; a place where people perhaps aren’t necessarily judged on their thinking ability. Now they’ve split up though, I am somehow not surprised that Susan still managed to make it to the office.

She has always shown her spirit, showing us that age really is just a number.  I like to think life is makeable, workable and enjoyable. Plus who knows, the father of my children might be out there, currently aged 13! Eeks!

Homeward Bound

My alarm goes off at 4.15am, three hours before my flight home leaves. The quote adverse weather conditions unquote (honestly never mind nuclear wapens create a snowstorm to get Europe on its knees)  cause chaos and I have been told to leave in plenty of time – that combined with a nervous nature make for a stupid o’clock get up.

The taxi drives chuckles when I tell him I am heading to London City Airport, not a good sign, but when I enter the departure/arrival hall it is quiet. Almost too quiet – cue the before noon Western movie music and tumble weed rolling.

At 6am when the check-in opens, two flight have already been cancelled and people are being queued up by destination country rather than actual flight. The self check ins don’t work- but they have forgotten to tell us. Like they have forgotten to tell us about the already 90min delay. It is not the weather that’s irritating – let’s face it we all knew about it before coming here – it is the lack of communication and inefficiency of some staff. Beautiful examples:

  • Queue gets split in two so there are clear lines in front of desk 16 and 17, only for a member of staff to stand in front of the queue for desk 16 blocking any movement there and ‘manage’ the people of queue for desk 17 to both desks.
  • The security guard who tells the queue to move backward to make some walking space and the customer service attendant who urges the queue forward to get things moving.

Come on England, surely queuing is what you do –  for heaven’s sake!

Meanwhile I get a text from my ex who has been stuck in Amsterdam for the last 36 hours – oh the irony- and who had even boarded a plane for three hours only to be told it was cancelled anyway. He is now on his way to London City Airport.

My plane has a 90min delay – plain sailing if you imagine a flight to Milan being shown with Indefinite Delay on screen. My phone rings once again and my ex tells me he has just arrived – we are in the same building and decide to wave at eachother through the glass when we pass. Alas, my flight is boarding and I call him back- voicemail. This is how I will leave London for 2009: so close to the one I once loved, yet so far away.

Then the plane finally takes off and as we burst through the clouds, golden rays of sunshine warm my face through the window of seat 11D and I feel a sudden surge of inexplicable but complete happiness. I know- mid air sitting next to a grumpy stranger who really should rethink his facial hair I was happy; how is that for deep philosophy.

Happily I bounce off the plane, queuing once again for passport control when they just let us pass. Ah, they have given up I think optimistically; I wave my passport to the guy behind the desk who gives me the thumbs up and Iwalk to the luggage belt… when a security guard stops me – not sure whether I speak Dutch he tries in his best Denglish: Lady, you have to leave now. We are all shovelled out; once again without explanation. Somebody says in Dutch they have found a package in the airport – no one explains anything in English. Panic starts when security starts shouting in Dutch at the masses: Move now, you have to leave now! Confusion for the tourists who cannot understand what is going on. People carrying big suitcases just won’t fit through the gap of (Oh!) one door that easily…(If  ever anyone wants to do a safety evaluation- call me.)

Outside I find my parents and everyone waits in the snow for instructions. Which are brief and come every 10 min: Move further back ( No joke – for half an hour we are constantly moved back, another 2 meters. Just a little further, well maybe a little more. I hoped there was no timer on this bomb as we would be screwed. I was also worried about my Christmas presents.) Then somebody makes a decision and after a walk following the lady in the illuminating jacket and no idea where we are heading ( My dad complained that the parking meter was still running…) we are all led to an industrial space where they conveniently have placed a temporary cinema as a Christmas novelty. The eight year old boy in front of me got excited: DAD! we are just going to the cinema! It was cute. Not so much after three hours mind…Twice they made an announcement which made people run to the front just to be told to stay put, but the third announcement was the all clear. Hoorah! Survived!

After the ordeal was over, those who were to depart had to queue up again but others could stroll right back in, pick up bags and drive off.

Anti climax? Yes. Absolutely.

But to my dad’s relief at least the parking was free.

Love in the time of Gitmo

Originally I intended to write this entry about the 75 words on page 26 of today’s London Metro under the headline of Gitmo inmates sent to mainland prison. President Obama has decided to move 100 prisoners to a prison in North Illinois and an official claims that ‘closing Guantanamo Bay will remove a deadly recruiting tool from Al-Qaeda.’ That is great! Hoorah! Well done! Hang on a minute…is this the same Guantanamo Bay that America itself used to detain prisoners in, using highly controversial interrogation methods?

Like I said I was going to write about that, when later on in the day another story broke or rather: broke again. Once more it was rumoured that Reese Witherspoon (my girl crush – see previous post) and Jake Gyllenhaal split. I know. Nightmare! Reese after winning an Oscar and clearly trumping her husbands career achievements became a divorcee with two children- at what 31?, found new love in beautiful 4 year younger man (hoorah, well done!) and managed to keep very discreet about it. That – Mr Tom Cruise- is something that a few people could learn…

Yes I know, she has is famous and succesful, yes I know she has been through a divorce and yes I know, she has two children and yes I know, he is four years younger. But. It. Would. Have. Been. Nice. Why do I care so much – you ask? When there are people dying and being abused in say, Guatanamo Bay? Because wouldn’t it be nice to know that despite people going through atrocities in the world, despite women being successful, despite people going through divorce, despite people already having two children by others and despite age differences between partners – love still happens?

Love is beautiful but complicated.

Everything is so fragile when you first start seeing someone, nobody wants to really bare their soul on the first date even if they do show their knickers. ( Which by the way one should only after date three and then you still don’t sleep with someone until you both love each other very much and are both financially stable.) There is excitement and fear at the same time especially as George Michael tells us so often these days, when you have been once bitten. But then your friends start to recognise you are behaving weirdly and before you know it you have described your new man from the funny thing he said to the cute little mole above his eyebrow over a glass or two or a bottle of Pinot and there is no way back. Especially if he then texts and your friends dissect his message to a degree of  PhD in male psychology: if the jury’s verdict is positive then despite all your efforts to play it cool, it is hook line and sinker.

Now comes the tricky part, you both are clearly keen and the game is pretty much up – how do you keep it fresh and prevent anyone getting bored and moving on? (See how I don’t specify gender here; it is because yours truly does acknowledge the thrill of the chase and the sugar-low afterwards!) I believe keeping your own life would be a good one, doing things on your own so it is still exciting to see the other and to be able to tell them things. New things. Not the things that you have told them about the laundry before when they just didn’t listen. Luckily my friends think the same (that is why they are my friends) and especially when we all get together which takes an awful lot of planning – the next one is set for March -we hardly ever get introduced to each other’s partners. This does lead to an interesting conundrum around this time a year: the Christmas card. Do you address it to just your friend OR to friend and partner? I on principle decided the former, only to receive several Christmas cards signed by the latter…I’d like to state that there are exceptions to my ‘principle’: civil partnership or marriage. Frankly I am so in awe of this institution that it warrants a mention on the Christmas card. 

Thus to wrap it all up… Dear Mr Gyllenhall, we’re at the end of 2009 so surely you must know by now that if you like it then you better put a ring on it; and when you do, I promise I will happily mention you in my card for 2011.  


  1. Dream, think, be.
  2. Be brave – not stupid.
  3. Friends you don’t speak to every day are still great.
  4. Flirt – note: this list is in no particular order.
  5. Eat and enjoy it.
  6. Sleep and enjoy it.
  7. Make peace with your mistakes – don’t make them a double burden.
  8. Parents are human.
  9. It is ok to change your mind.
  10. Get up, dress up, show up – or at least attempt to get up.
  11. Cry if you want to. Be it in public, in bed, in the shower…
  12. Make decisions – no one will do it for you and time won’t wait.
  13. Work hard for what you want.
  14. Remember what your friends are allergic to.
  15. Stop worrying about worrying about worrying about…Breathe.
  16. Give yourself credit – only your mum will do it and you won’t believe her.
  17. Run away if you need to, just don’t pretend to travel.
  18. Take care of your body – bodylotion, gym, haircuts it is all because you worth it.
  19. Grow a spine and walk tall – even if it is only 4ft2.
  20. Four things to take travelling: phone, passport, money, map of place you are visiting.
  21. Don’t eat fish that actually smells like fish.
  22. Don’t be afraid to love someone – no matter what other people tell you.
  23. Dare to say yes and learn to say no – the trick is knowing when to choose what.
  24. Tequila is evil.
  25. If you are flying solo, at least you are still flying free.

Wild Thing

Yesterday we had a Christmas lunch with work and I found myself telling people -as you do after a couple of drinks- about my notoriously short temper. Funnily enough people didn’t believe me. Despite me having a flatmate who will verify my claims, I have often found that I apparently do not come across as a mean spirited soul. Well not mean spirited necessary, just spirited I guess.

As a child I could get really upset about things, that feeling of boiled up energy that suddenly releases itself usually without any direct link to the situation. Confusing for everyone involved, including myself. Only in hindsight I can recognise this as a sort of panic reaction to ‘not being in control of situation’. (Yes yes everyone’s a little autistic, they say!) Anything that changed plans or took me by surprise- triggered a moment of panic and a strong reaction. Even now, I sometimes need a couple of minutes to readjust when plans are changed. Though these days it involves less tears and tantrums.

As a teenager I just got upset about things I cared about a lot which during that time was a lot – life was black and white. Either I loved something or I loathed it. I had very strong opinions, strong emotions and very little control over it. I still have family members who tip-toe around me, afraid to be blown away by another emo-explosion. Being over-argumentative and having a way with words, I would challenge anyone and beat anyone in any hot-headed discussion. There was not always a feeling of triumph though, usually any verbal boxing match came with its share of guilt. Pride however stopped me from apologising to those I hurt with words – I was right, I had won. Ok, so perhaps the verbal boxing match was more free-style fighting; yet surely when you are fighting to prove you’re right there are no rules? All is fair in love and war.

These days people tell me I have mellowed a little. People don’t even believe the temper until they have witnessed it. Fact is: some who have witnessed it seem to be scarred for life and they keep a 6ft distance. I have accepted this as a consequence of my own foolishness that I shall have to live with – after all they are only human too. Having said that, I still feel I cannot apologise for something that is such an intricate part of me; it’s these raw emotions and strong feelings that keep me searching. It gives me a sense of adventure in life, it keeps me dreaming when hope seems gone. It makes me choose passion over sense, free over safe, and love over like.

By accepting it I can control it better. By discovering what I am or who I am and how I stand into relation with the rest of the world I can let things roll of my back a bit more. The more comfortable I am with me, the less I feel I have to explain or defend myself to the outside world.  My temper is unfortunately my knee jerk reaction, in a person who honestly wants to be nice, optimistic, helpful, happy and loving, my temper is my Wild Thing. Luckily my life’s burden was tonight kindly comforted by Spike Jones’ tagline: There is one in all of us. 

Multi tasking

As I am writing this, I have put on Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona in the background. Or foreground as I am still glancing at the tv screen now and then.  Next to me is a bowl of pasta and chicken, a dinner quickly prepared out of whatever was left in the fridge. I have opened a bottle of Bud in an attempt to relax.

It is not working.

I still got some Christmas presents to buy (like anyone else who hasn’t set up a militairy operation by November the 1st), I still got a theatre project to finish and send off, which would include writing another 15minutes and perhaps even write another song fill in the forms, burn the DVD and nothing is flowing. I can feel myself getting more and more sucked into the film – No I must resist!

I had planned this evening to be enjoyable, but I am fighting with the internet connection and trying to think how I am going to fit everything in. I also bought a magazine, optimistically, and I can feel myself getting tired. Still I am trying to keep my brain going though, it is not allowed to give in just yet.

Because tonight I’d rather deal with all of the above and wrestle a small alligator, then having to actively deal with the decaying dregs of a love long gone.