Old Friends A-new

Ossie (finger-print t-shirt) came to visit a few weeks ago. He was in Europe for the first time travelling during some free time and made a bee-line to hang out with me in Oxford where I was working. He travelled with a book and his friend Jim, a clear-thinking, intelligent guy. The book was The Human Brain by Professor Susan Greenfield. It was mine but I’d given it to Os 3 years ago in Melbourne when I lived with him on the promise he gave it back to me personally.

‘Here it is mate,’ Os explained in his broad Aussie tone. So now after 3 years, there he was in the Kings Arms on a Thursday afternoon in Oxford, waiting to have a beer again with the book primed for returning.

I like to give books as random presents. Not only to impart what I consider valuable knowledge and awareness (forgive me being presumptuous!) but more simply as a gift that reflects my views on friendship; deep and long-lasting like books. For I take friendship seriously (even when I can’t resist taking the piss). Fundamentally we have a sense of responsibility to take care of each other, to make sure we can be the best we can be. I’ve been fortunate to have friends who have helped me out. I often can’t offer much but I do my best. Some music, books, a touch of knowledge, some humour and the encouragement of an optimistic guy.

How we interpret friendship says a lot about us, most importantly about how we are socialised. There is often an emphasis on difference between groups. It can seem difficult to broach numerous cliques. Talking to a new group and away from your own in a pub is viewed with suspicion in England. Our privacy settings are too high.

Yet having crossed the globe the odd time, I’ve found very little to keep us truly distinct. We hope the same dreams and seek genuine assurance and opportunity. I don’t believe in temporary friends or friends of circumstance. I build friendships and relationships that last, even if its difficult to keep in contact sometimes. And great, long-lasting friends can be made on any night.

So many a-time, I treat people as an old friend from the start, breaking down our entirely false social conventions. In a hostel, get a bottle of wine and offer a glass to those nearby. Once that bottle is finished, the next bottle is sure to arrive. At university, be forward and direct, inviting people in, for no one wants to be on the outside. The eight friends who visited me in Oxford over the last month were all reinforcing our sometime brief interactions. Like most others, before they were simply friends I hadn’t met yet.

So to my old friends a-newed this summer; Mirella after 6 months, Os after 3 years, Pedro after 4 months, the Oxford staff after one year, Rob after 6 months, Hanna after 2 years, Linden after 8 months, Mary after 2 years, Sarah after 4 years, Vedran after 3 years, Jane after 6 years, its been warming to continue without a blip again. And to everyone I’ve met this year including the Nottingham and Oxford crews, if I don’t see you soon, I will be thinking of you. You’ve shaped my existence in leagues. Thanks.

That reminds me: I’m off to the book shop. I wanna get Mary a book.

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