Reunited, and It Feels So Good…

Over the years I’ve met countless people. Some have come and gone, others have remained a part of my life from the day we met. There are those I thought would be friends forever but have ended up drifting away over time. There are others I barely noticed, or who barely noticed me, to begin with, but our paths crossed at a later date and we’ve now become firm friends.

As I’ve grown older, friendship has become increasingly important to me. I didn’t enjoy school at all, and on leaving I couldn’t wait to disassociate myself with the place. I did leave with one particular friend, but took her friendship for granted as my social circle grew and being ‘popular’ became the be all and end all for me. How naïve I was, and how telling that my school friend is the only person from those days with whom I still have contact today. Throughout the years I was in full time employment my confidence grew along with my social life, and decisions I’d thought were right for me suddenly came into question quite starkly. I’ve made some horrendous mistakes along the way – who hasn’t? However, not everyone has to take two attempts at matrimony before they finally decide that the whole ‘Mr and Mrs’ thing doesn’t suit them. Like most people, I’ve learnt from my mistakes and they’ve helped shape the person I am today. They’ve also helped me realise how important friends are – true friends, I mean, not the hangers-on I once considered to be my whole world, but whom I haven’t seen for 30 years now. There’s nothing like a time of adversity to find out which friends are true, and throughout the messes I’ve made in the past my friends have come through with flying colours.

Before I start getting over sentimental, I’ll rein myself in and get to the point. Two years ago, as I’ve probably mentioned before, I was made redundant from a job I’d been in for over twenty years. That hit me hard, even though it did give me the opportunity to go on to make a living doing something I love. Leaving my job hurt mostly because I had been lucky enough to work with some of the nicest people I’m ever likely to meet, and working with them had been amazing fun. There were days I’d get home from work having laughed all day, and I felt like the luckiest person ever, getting paid to spend time with my friends. It could never last. We parted company at the end of March 2012, promising faithfully to keep in touch and get together, ooh, at least once every other month.

Last night, two years on, we finally managed that get together to celebrate a 60th birthday. The birthday ‘boy’ is one of those rarities in life: the kind of person EVERYONE likes, and so we gathered en masse for his surprise party. It was like we’d never been parted as we circulated and chatted, reminiscing about the glory days at work when we were all youngsters, and catching up on each other’s news now we’re all – ahem – a little older! It was great. It was a fabulous evening, a timely reminder of the importance of friends from the past, and we won’t be leaving it another two years before we meet up again.

Team Gooden on Hi Racker

Posing with my workmates on a hi-racker at work, many Christmas Eves ago. Love those hi-vis jackets!

Coincidentally, during the course of the evening I enjoyed another mini reunion as someone I haven’t seen since my schooldays also happened to be in the pub. We spent ages chatting, swapped numbers and, now she’s living in Cambridge again, we’re going to have a proper catch up soon. Funnily enough, she hated school too.

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Bittersweet Christmas Eve

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Today I miss my Mum more than any other day of the year. When I was a child she used to make Christmas so magical it really was the most wonderful time of the year, and my memories of that time are invaluable, despite the fact they hurt, which raises the old question of whether it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

The answer’s a no brainer. Despite the fact I have a big lump in my throat as I think about my gentle, humorous, outgoing Mum, I wouldn’t be without a single one of my bittersweet memories. My happy childhood was instrumental in making me the person I am today. Mum instilled a love of books in me long before I could read or write, and she would have been so very proud that what she began culminated in her daughter becoming a published author earlier this year. Since Mum died in 2006, I have not been able to listen to the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College Chapel, as we used to do while making mince pies every Christmas Eve during my formative years. My mince pies are shop bought (probably just as well, the last cake I attempted to bake resembled a house brick!) and the radio will remain off at three o’clock this afternoon when the carols begin.

Mum’s favourite carol – The Three Kings. This performance came from King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, in 2006. I still can’t listen to it without tears, but it is beautiful.

I hope Christmas is all you wish for it to be. If you, like me, are missing someone right now, a good cry can help, then you can think about the good times you shared with that person, and celebrate the fact they were once a part of your world.

Alison’s Advent Calendar Day Twelve – Don’t Stop Believing.

I used to love working on Christmas Eve. As Christmas approached each year, my boss used to miraculously transform into a human being, and he’d co-ordinat the work so we hardly had anything left to do by the time Christmas Eve came around. Consequently, we’d spend most of the day eating sweets and laughing, everyone feeling high spirited and very festive. I remember one particular Christmas Eve, I was riding round on a forklift truck making a nuisance of myself while my colleagues packed the final orders of the day and anticipated the imminent exodus to the pub. ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey came on the radio, and as one the thirty or so people in the book distribution warehouse beamed their approval and sang along. There wasn’t a shrinking violet anywhere; everyone belted the song out with gusto, sweet wrappers flying around like confetti, and air guitars being played with breath-taking skill. It was hilarious, it was jubilant, and it was a moment in time that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

We had no idea on that Christmas Eve that our book distribution haven wasn’t going to last forever. Our employer decided that our jobs could be done just as well, and a lot more cheaply, elsewhere. On our last day, my colleagues (many of them friends) and I attended our final staff briefing, and were treated to a ‘rousing’ farewell and thank you speech. I can remember feeling a mixture of emotions: sadness (I’d done the same job for 23 years, and it was hard to say goodbye); anticipation (Dory’s Avengers was already taking shape in my mind); apprehension (what if my writing career didn’t take off?); excitement (it WILL). Looking round at my friends’ faces, I guessed they were all wondering what their futures would hold too. It was an emotionally charged moment, and as the management team wound up their speeches and wished us all the very best of luck there may have been tears – had the highly appropriate ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ not sounded forth from the radio at that very moment. Emotions put on hold, air guitars dusted down, and we ended the book distribution chapter of our lives on a high.

Although it’s unashamedly corny, ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ always puts me in a positive frame of mind; not just because of the lyrics, but also because of the memories I’ve shared today. My first book is now published, and bit by bit I’m edging towards the writing success I crave. Sometimes it’s daunting, but I’m not going to give up on something I love so very much. I’m working on my second novel at the moment, polishing and fine tuning the first part, and turning my thoughts to how the story will continue. The rush of pure pleasure that only comes from writing my own work is back with a vengeance; I’m so excited about my work in progress. Whatever happens, I won’t stop believing.

Today’s tune? Go on, guess!

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Advent Calendar 004Today’ advent calendar picture – a mouse and a lantern.