Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Belonging

I have several friends who are single. I have one friend who’s just got back together with her husband after a period of separation. I have friends who’ve been married for a long time. Most of my girlfriends are mothers, but I have several who don’t have children, for whatever reason. I have friends who are gay, friends who are straight. I have friends from work, friends from the loony bin, friends I met abroad. But I have never had a circle of friends. Until last Christmas, when we had a party and threw the local friends together, most of them didn’t know each other.

I’ve always been an oddity. I’m unconventional, have never fitted in. I didn’t marry until my early forties. So I suppose it makes sense that most of my friends are not part of a set group. I like that. I like going to the cinema or for a drink and sitting next to them, thinking, ‘these are my mates. I’m proud of them.’ It gives me a warm glow. I also like it when I introduce friends and they get on.

Looking around, mothers form a strong bond, a formidable group, to those of us that are excluded from it. But for the first time in my life I find myself belonging to several groups. Me, the cat that walked by itself. Dogwalkers are one group who provide a good networking support of everything from how to sort out problem dogs to finding accommodation for homeless friends.

As a writer I belong to several groups, some professional, some not. Our local group that meets every week has been a lifeline. We are of different generations, from different backgrounds with different viewpoints. Our link is a love of words, and a necessity to put them on paper for others to read. And preferably get paid for it. That’s a very strong, and very essential bond. We lift each other up when we just know that every word we’ve written is complete garbage. We celebrate each other’s successes. We give words of advice and encouragement, and never, ever, say anything to put our fellows down. Constructive criticism is one (vital) thing. Viciousness is another.

The professional group meets periodically in London and there I meet fellow writers from all over the country. With shaking legs, I meet agents and publishers (sometimes) and try to sound intelligent, not to spill my wine. Afterwards I heave a sigh of relief, feel I could have done better and head for home.

This morning I woke early and hugged to myself the thought that I could read for a whole hour before I had to get up. I pulled back the curtains and the sky darkened as if it was dusk and the rain fell in torrents, rattling the windows and splashing against the walls. As I read, the sky lightened again and gradually I heard other sounds. Someone washing upstairs. A van roaring down the street. Seagulls crying and wheeling overhead.

Next to me, Himself breathed deeply, turned over and muttered in his sleep. A contented sort of grunt. Our cat nudged me with his nose, urging me to stroke his silky fur. He purred ecstatically as I tickled his soft underbelly, white as parchment. And on the floor, lying in a patch of light, our Jack Russell, blissfully soaking up the sun. My family.

When I was single (for many years) I would look at other people and envy them their marriedness, their coupledom. Their automatic right to a group. But we all have some sort of a group. Friends, work colleagues, a love of music or art or words. Of animals or travel. Of food or wine. You’ve heard some of my groups. What are yours?

8 comments:

Jayne said...

What a lovely post. I've also never been particularly conventional and I've given my Mum many grey hairs over the years.

I have a lovely group of friends from 'home' that I can share all my thoughts with. One friend moved away last year, but we are still in close contact. We all help each other.

One best friend is someone I met on a hospital visit (of all places) about 7 years ago. I met another close friend at work many years ago.

I have a lovely set of 'online' friends who I chat to regularly and some I care for very much. I have good neighbours who are friends and it is always nice meeting the parents of my 9 year old's friends.

Over the years new friend's have been made and a few of fallen along the way with no reason other than people tend to move on.

In real life I'm quite shy and can be a bit of a closed book but my friends bring out the best in me.

I have written the word 'friends' a lot.

Lovely, lovely post!

Take care

Scruffy Mummy said...

Hi there - came through you through Mother at Large - my partner is older as well, I'm 37 and he is 63! And he is a professionaljazz musician as well! Plays guitar. We have a toddler and are not a conventional trendy couple as you can imagine!

Flowerpot said...

jayne - glad to meet another unconventional one - please drop by again! It's good to add online friends to the list as well. Some friends tend to come and go, dont they? the important thing is to have ones you can really talk to.

Flowerpot said...

scruffy mum - glad to meet you, too! And very pleased to meet another one married to a jazz musician. And an Age Gap!!! Havign a toddler must be wonderful - if very hard work. Good for you. Do drop by again.

Rebecca Taunton said...

I always think that it's not the quantity of friends that you have, but the quality (I feel like I've written this before...). And if everyone was the same, life would be rather boring.

I'm pretty unconventional too, and have a wide variety of friends. All of them are very special.

I agree with you - that you have to have people you can really talk to.

A good post FP

debio said...

I seem to collect acquaintances but have only a handful of true friends; nevertheless, these are very important to me and I wouldn't be without them.

Great post, flowerpot - provoked much thought this end...

Jez Bell said...

Your post is really thoughtful. It's always good to know there are others who are unconventional and dont neatly fit into other peoples boxes! Having been a single mother most of my son's life, I've never fitted into the couple-dom scene either, nor been one of the school-gate mums as I've worked since he was a baby. I have a handful of people who are very close friends, we've been through good and bad times and can rely on each other. Others tend to be people I have to do different things with -whether fun nights out, or occasional lunch, or something more 'cultural', trips away, or those I may not see for months on end but we are always glad and unchanged when we do get together.
I like not having one big circle but lots of little ones to move around!

Motheratlarge said...

Well, there's the blogosphere, for a start! I feel I can talk about all sorts of things with other bloggers like you, Flowerpot, that I'd find difficult to discuss face to face.

Like you, I was single for years, and also quite lonely for a long time. I used to long to be more conventional, but eventually accepted I never would be (not that I'm madly eccentric or anything!).

My husband's my best friend really, and he went through a lot of the same experiences as me.