a friend indeed…

We find friends in the most likely and unlikely of places. I have the usual friends I met at school or college and a great collection of friends from my various careers, and I count among my best friends the friends I met while travelling Australia, because we had to rely on each other far from home and I went through a life change while there that gave me focus and purpose, and that happened side by side with the best of people. And then there are the friends you make while working abroad…

If you are single, and far from home, you typically don’t have a very good support network in place. Women are a funny bunch. For men, it’s really easy. They walk up to another guy, shake hands, talk about sports, go for a beer, and then they are best buds. For women, it’s more calculated, there’s trust to be established and you never know the baggage a woman comes with and we are wary to get too bogged down in another woman’s “stuff” before we know if it’s a friendship we want to invest in. So when you take these overseas assignments, you tend to hang out with the people that arrived around the same time as you, and you hope that you find other people more suited to you before you become too entrenched in the “newbie” gang… It sounds calculated but it’s not… to survive overseas, you have to find friends with like temperaments and interests, because they are the people you will spend ALL your time with for the next couple of years.

I was lucky in both Qatar and Gabon. In both places, I was able to become entrenched in a group of people that would become my support network and although I don’t talk to any of them enough, I want to talk to them all the time, and I want to see them all the time, I just can’t because we are on different continents now, with different timezones and new groups of friends…

But life moves on and I’m in a whole new phase of my life, establishing a new group of friends. It’s harder here. People don’t need new friends and Handsome and I only get four free days every month in which we are truly free to commit to seeing our new pals, and honestly? Sometimes in those four days, all we want to do is a lot of nothing, but we have to get out there…

But even if you can’t see your old friends, the magic of technology is that we can now skype, or facetime, or whatsapp, or text, or call and for the ones that are worth it, that’s what you do, you carry on connecting and when the chips are down, or you have a free hour, or you just think of someone fondly, you contact them and you catch up, and it’s like there aren’t 4,000+ miles between you, or a 15 hour time difference.

I have two friends that have stood the test of time in this way. One of them, the lovely Claudia, has been the best of friends to me and in the eight years we have known each other, and shared secrets and told the truth to each other, the friendship has never wavered. Claudia inspires me in so many ways. She is brave, she doesn’t give up, she has forced herself into financial security time and time again, she’s taken a lot of knocks and she doesn’t let it get her down (or not for long anyway). She’s a fighter and I really wish she could find the happiness she deserves, in and amongst the BS that life deals us. She is one of those later-in-life friends where we know each other’s parents, where we call each other when something terrible happens, where we wrongly drunk dial each other and then crap on about the disappointments in our lives, but always cheer each other up!

We met in London when we both started working at my present company. We have both branched out into new countries and continents, but she was always far more cosmopolitan than me. And honestly, as with most of my friends, a shared appreciation of rose wine was all it took to cement the friendship (and a few secrets shared over the bottle). She currently lives in the Middle East and that means that I have seen her once in three years, but we are still in touch and more importantly, even though we don’t do it enough, we do want to talk lots, and I think that’s the most important thing in a friendship.

Test-of-time friend number two is Sexy Sooz, who came into my life with a throwaway comment from a friend who knew I was going to Gabon and Sooz was there. This mutual friend saw some similarities between me and Sooz and thought a clash would ensue. What happened was the opposite. I took to Sooz immediately and saw her for exactly what she was, a kind, considerate, funny, mental, UNBELIEVABLY ambitious girl, who was crying out for someone to take her just as she was. Which I did. Over the course of a year, she became a regular twice weekly or more feature in our house and this girl, who clearly didn’t realize I want to live like a hermit, invited herself round regularly, always brought wine, and would sometimes fall asleep on my sofa mid-glass of wine and sentence, then later burst into my room at 3am, asking where I had hidden her shoes. What’s not to like about that?

And this amazing girl started traditions that I miss even now, beginning with Saturday lunches at the finest restaurant Gabon had to offer, and later migrating to Saturday morning group events at the beach, with dogs and wine and cheese and good people with great attitudes. My girl is pushy, but she is pushy for the stuff I want. She supported me through some of the worst times of my life, and I hope that I do the same for her in return. We talk about once every two weeks, despite the appalling connection in Gabon.

It’s so difficult to talk about friends and family on here in a succinct way. If I am bothering to write about them, it’s because I have so many great things to say about them, but they will see themselves in many of my blog posts and they are the people I know are actually reading it. I really love you Cloudy, I really love you Sooz. You are my sisters from other misters…

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