“Who’s cooking this time?”
“The Italian. Have you ever eaten her food?”
“Prepare to be amazed”
I was. Seems like the Med has a knack for producing people who bring other people together around a table, wherever in the world we may be.
London is a terrible place to make friends. Let’s start from that.
First of all, a high percentage of its population is transitory. We come to study or to work for a few years and then we are off. We leave the city – because it’s a tough and expensive place – or we leave the UK altogether. You might have just had a friend for years and then they piss off to Australia. I mean… realistically you’re not seeing each other again.
Secondly, London distances are no joke. This is a big city and it takes ages to get from one place to the other. Unless you have friends who work around the same area and you arrange to see them after work it’s highly improbable that you will commute home (on average 45 minutes) and then commute back out for a catch up.
Thirdly, we are all busy fuckers. There are things happening ALL THE TIME in London. Please live busy lives in specific geographical areas and it’s tough to get them out of that grind. There’s a running joke that if you want to see a Londoner you have to book time with them 3 months earlier but, while 3 months is a slight exaggeration, we do tend to set things up very early.
Finally, we grow up and we grow apart. Shit happens. A new job. A wedding. A break up where people – quite naturally – take sides. New priorities. And… you know… a steady reduction over time of our ability to have fun with everyone. We grow, older, more self assured, weirder. Our circle grows smaller.
Thinking about it, I would probably have lost touch with so many more people if it wasn’t for social media. I’m an optimist when it comes to tech. Sure, a random relative leaves me personal messages for the world to see under photos but in the main I keep in touch here and there with my amazingly talented Latin American friend or the blonde pop culture dynamo from uni. I mean, I want to know how they are doing and exchange a few words from time to time!
To that end, I like what the pandemic did to how accepting we are of just setting up a conference call to catch up. Cause how would I gossip a bit with my Russian friend who moved to the Med and is rocking new interests living her best life? How would I see my friend who is now in Thailand and her incredibly cute child!
To be honest, I don’t think my mother would have been as cool as she’s been about me being abroad if she couldn’t keep in touch via camera from time to time. When I first moved here we were actually using the public server of the Greek National Polytechnic to log onto Microsoft Netmeeting and get a grainy picture of each other. Immigrants have known the value of video calls for decades. But I digress.
Do you know when was the last time I saw my best friend from Uni? MONTHS ago. We both have kids, jobs, husbands and interests. Do you know when was the last time I saw my Greek friend from Oxford? MONTHS ago. We both have kids, jobs, husbands and interests. This is how it actually goes and that, you must accept, if you want to keep your sanity.
This can be an incredibly lonely place.
I think back to one of the times I got together with friends to “cut the pie”, a New Year’s Greek tradition when we cut and eat a cake, in search of a lucky coin hidden inside. I think I saw two of those friends in the last 3 months, at least 5 are back in Greece, 4 I have no idea what they do and 1 I married. This was not 20 years ago, it was less than 5 years ago.
The musician was so upset when the kid got covid and I was talking about it on twitter. Did I need anything?
And then the university professor and the cinema queen took me for a burger when my pregnant belly was huge and I needed some girl time.
And then the photographer and my friend from school played with the kid while I was complaining non stop – not to mention nursed my wounds when I had a monumentally bad break-up some years ago.
And then my architect friend and the girl from Northern Greece sent me a message when I was in my darkest post-pregnancy days and they knew. And they propped me up and I survived.
And then we went drinking with the boy from Salonica and he brought 100 more people – because he knows everyone – and I don’t think anyone can show so many people a good time in one go.
And then my best friend from uni had her first kid and I cooked her some Greek goodies and dropped them off, spending some soft time with her kid sleeping on me.
And then the tall girl invited me over to the Mehndi and let me borrowed a dark green Salwar Kameez, translating the songs as the women around us sang them.
And then my friend’s mother and I smoked a cigarette outside – a few words in Italian, a few in English, a few in Greco, we had some fun.
And then we taught each other about our culture, we shared London tips and we gave each love and camaraderie and support.
When we got married we opted for a very small wedding in London. We celebrated with the family on Friday and had most of our friends over for a barbecue on a Sunday. They came and celebrated with us – most had seen our peculiar saga and raised a glass to us finally doing the thing that was obvious to most from the beginning. Not everyone could make it.
And that was absolutely fine because friendship is not always about presence and I don’t think any place has taught me that most completely and comprehensively than London.
- Grexit/ Brexit
- The way to anyone’s heart is through the stomach
- The night bus
- Words save our lives… sometimes
- The rest is noise
- How not to bite your nails in the Officials’ Box
- Always have a sister
- Greek London
- This green and pleasant land
- The bridge of aspiration
- The knight in well travelled armor
- Carpets in the toilet and other adventures in housing
- Moments in Art
- The NHS hunger games
- In nocte consilium
- The friends we found, the friends we lost
- Blogging tips for beginners
- Lord of Gondolin, Bane of Gothmog, mighty beater of his headboard, conqueror of the slide, aka our child
- γνῶθι σεαυτόν
- How to leave London