A British friend of mine, here in Sydney, was telling me the other day about how worried she is because she only has a handful of good friends in Australia.
So I asked her why that was such a problem exactly, because the older I become, the more I realise that to have a handful of good friends is a far superior position to be in than to have lots of friends.
That feeling was cemented on my recent trip back ‘home’; because when you migrate to the other side of the world, you work out very quickly who your ‘life’ friends are.
I didn’t waste any time during my two weeks in the UK and Paris. Every day was organized with a precision previously unknown to me in order to maximize that precious two weeks by myself, but I did have two main missions: to devote some much-needed time to myself, and to spend time with (most of) the people I really care about.
Luckily, the conditions for my trip were optimum. In contrast to the weather we’ve experienced in Sydney over the past few days, the weather in Europe was kind to this acclimatized POM who now considers a temperature of sixteen degrees the equivalent of the depth of winter – although admittedly, that was before I spotted a well-heeled man in Chelsea stroll comfortably down the Kings Road sporting pink cotton shorts and slippers in what must have been all of nine degrees.
And the little red diesel Golf that I hired did me proud as we burned our way from the south of England to the Midlands together, and I experienced moments of real pride in myself as I bombed down those motorways with not a care in the world and a sense of liberation that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I was quite sad to part with that foolhardy car at the end of the trip, although less sad to farewell London traffic, which is governed by unforgiving black cabs and fancy penis extensions.
But inevitably, the toughest part of any trip back to the homeland is seeing family and old friends, with the added responsibility of needing to appear fresh, entertaining and happy for each visit; to recount the same stories with the same fervour as the first time, and to pretend to enjoy every bottle of wine proffered.
Okay, so that wasn’t THAT hard!.
But it was also the best bit. We all need reminders sometimes that we are loved, whether it’s the unconditional kind from family, or the enduring connection with old friends. I hadn’t realized just how raw I had been feeling emotionally after the last two annus horribilis and the love and support of extended family and good friends, (the people I could talk to unashamedly, because they know me), was the perfect tonic.
Even better, I didn’t have to share that love like I usually have to with my kids, and could lap it up selfishly and keep it all to myself.
It reminded me of those weekends after we first had NC and were still reeling from the shock of parenting a new baby and took every opportunity to head back to the old man’s parents for reassurance, TLC and a much-needed break. While they worshipped our little bundle of joy, we were able to catch up on some precious shut-eye, good food and our own relationship.
You don’t need much in life to make you happy. All you need is some family and a handful of good friends. You need people who will love you unconditionally, no matter what your faults, who can make you laugh or listen when you need to cry.
But most importantly, you need people who value your relationship or friendship as much as you value theirs.
No matter how small that special handful of friends and family, they will be part of your life forever, even if you end up on the other side of the world.