What an awesome night out I had in Bicester last Sunday - significantly better than many of the ones I had when I was actually living there. I think this is one benefit of moving around - you make new friends wherever you go but the ones you made where you were before welcome you back with open arms when you return.
The pessimist in me might suggest that people were only so pleased to see me because having been absent for almost two years they might have forgotten what a pain in the arse I am! The optimist in me hopes that's not the case and I am not actually one of those people who gets gets described as "alright in small doses" behind their back. I'm sure there is an element of absence making the heart grow fonder but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
I had chosen this particular Sunday to revisit my old stamping ground after receiving an invitation to a Christening. My friends, Anne and Mark, had recently had a new baby, something that in itself had been news to me due to my sparse use of social media these days. I had completely missed the fact that Anne had been pregnant with baby Bevyn and that she had given birth until a chance meeting in Sainsbury in Bicester a couple of months ago. When I saw her pushing a buggy with a baby inside I asked whose baby it was. When she replied "mine" I realised how out of touch I am. But it was a nice surprise. Sometimes it's nice not to know everything that's going on so going off radar is not necessarily a bad thing.
Thankfully she wasn't offended so when the invite came along I was only too delighted to accept. When it later transpired that my dear friend Laura was celebrating her birthday out on the same evening, I knew I had picked the right date to return home.
The Christening itself was lovely, as these things always are, giving me a chance to reconnect with a lot of people I hadn't seen in a very long time. I can't even try to mention everyone here, there are so many, and if I try I am bound to offend the one person I'll forget so quite simply, thank-you everyone I spent time with that afternoon. And, yes, Funky Mike, I have subscribed to your YouTube channel!
It was effortless to slip so easily back into conversations with people even after years of absence and if that's not a true test of long standing friendship, I don't know what is.
In the evening, after what I believe is colloquially known as a "cheeky Nando's" I went to the karaoke at The White Hart, a night I founded over a decade ago when the pub was about half the size it is now. Today it is in the capable hands of Charlee and the night was everything I had hoped it would be. The drink flowed as I enjoyed moments with more friends of so many years standing. It was one of those nights that you hope will never end and without doubt the best night I have had out this year. Again I reflected that time doesn't dampen friendship, as the time apart I've spent from these people has made the bond stronger if anything. We may not have spoken and my fleeting Facebook time again means I may not have liked their statuses or commented on their posts as I simply haven't seen them but as I've said time and time again, that isn't how I think friendship ought to be measured. It's what you do in the real world that counts. And last Sunday I got to spend quality time with some really special people who know who they are. I promise I won't leave it so long next time.
Now I am back home in Evesham, the new town I've come to call home and I went out last night to enjoy a few drinks with some of the friends I have made here these past couple of years. It's still early days and I don't have a shared history with the people here, but I firmly believe if you're friendly, approachable and make an effort to integrate, local people wherever you go will accept you, and you can build friendships with them. But you do have to make that effort, even if it's daunting walking into a new pub for the first time or entering a playground to pick up the kids at a new school where you know absolutely no-one. I was bold on my first day at Jamie's new school and walked straight up to two people and started talking to them. We're still chatting two years on. It's like anything in life - you have to put the effort in and step out of your comfort zone sometimes. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have the amazing back catalogue of friends I have built up through my life, moving from place to place, job to job and pub to pub! If you're reading this, chances are I met you somewhere along this amazing journey we call life and if you've been a part of mine - thank-you!