The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

In the company of women

on September 6, 2013

Last night I was out for dinner with a group of School Mum friends at Don Quijote, a Spanish restaurant doing tapas with an Asian twist. It seems a lot of restaurants have some sort of Asian fusion going on to explain away the lack of authenticity. Whilst I’m not really up on my tapas having only been to Spain twice (does Tenerife count?), I know that a patatas bravas is a little bit more than some potato wedges splodged with half a tin of chopped tomatoes on top, shame on you Wine Connection of Robertson Quay. I spent over a decade, care of Uncle Monkey, believing the components of sangria to be red wine, cheap brandy, fizzy Fanta and some chunks of apple and orange. He, on the other hand, ought to know better having spent his formative years running around semi nude on many a Spanish beach. An old habit he’s yet to shake off, which concerns me slightly living in Singapore now as #1, 2 and 3 rather enjoy living free of clothing.

It’s only the second time I have socialised with School Mum friends since #1 and now #2 started at school so I had no real expectations attached to the evening. You have a brief chat at school drop off or pick up and at school events but there is never enough time to really get to know one another. The other thing is that when you have only your children in common then you tend to start off on your best behaviour, almost like my behaviour is a reflection on my children (Good luck them). So it was a huge surprise to find myself laughing to the point of not being able to breathe with this group of women last night, one is so funny I almost regret spending $200 on Al Murray tickets for a comedy fix. When I left London, I left a whole network of friends accumulated over some 30 odd years, of course it was difficult to find yourself friendless but with everyone else carrying on their gatherings without you. Equally I shouldn’t be surprised that there are new friends to be discovered who can be real friends even though you met through Baby Groups or School. It’s what brings you together like going off to school, University or work but it’s time, personality and a willingness to make the effort that form friendships. At the moment in my head they are still my School Mum friends but soon I’m sure some of them will just be friends.

Exactly six years ago today, I was also sitting down with a group of women but this time at a genuine authentic tapas bar in Madrid, this was the moment I discovered there was in fact no fizzy Fanta in sangria. The occasion was my Hen Do and the entire weekend was a complete surprise left in the capable hands of three Bridesmaids (the forth was only 14 at the time but I wonder where she would have suggested, must ask her, Alton Towers I bet), who organised my travel, hotel, entertainment and everyone else. I am hugely appreciative of the effort that was involved because although I made perfectly clear (I think) that it didn’t matter where we went or what we did I would be happy with anything so long as the listed group of women were invited along. It’s a huge job though, working without a remit and trying to please another 10 women also part of the party. I love a Hen Do because you meet all the other women involved with the Bride and there’s a level of curiosity too in meeting the person from back home you’ve heard so much about or the ones from University with many shared experiences or the work colleague who is involved with all things current. They all mean something very special don’t they but it is a daunting experience gathering them altogether because they may have you in common but perhaps not much with each other. Perhaps the other scary thought is that collectively, the things these women know about you would be enough to document your whole life history.

One thing I do remember thinking at the time, is that I had rarely been on holiday with my female friends and it was such a shame that this great gathering was happening before I was getting married and would probably never have the opportunity to again. (This actually isn’t true because two years later I went to Bangkok for two days with a group of 11 women from #1’s Mum’s Group!). It’s an overwhelming feeling having all your closest female friends around you, especially at a time of high emotion too but it’s flattering that they care enough to be there, because a Hen Do these days is not often a budget affair. My Cousin Jenn is nine years older than me and we lived together from when I was three until she got married when I was 14, practically my sister. She was my surprise guest at my Hen Do, I was sat outside the genuine, authentic tapas bar waiting for all arrivals when suddenly there she was! I think I screamed, she’s highly excitable so I think I must have done. My Cousin Jenn loves surprises, not always when they happen to her but she loves organising a good surprise. I love this memory, of seeing her there in Spain at a big occasion in my life when often before I had left her behind whilst I set off into my twenties. This rapidly turned to feelings of mortification when the obligatory cringe inducing photos of my various youthful guises made an appearance. You can’t escape photographic evidence, digital or otherwise and they were LAMINATED no less, in case I tried to destroy them by vomit I imagine.

I ended up with a lot of phallic goods that weekend. I’ve been looking at the photos tonight and was reminded of a ‘task’ that involved obtaining a pair of men’s boxer shorts. Why was that a good idea? I didn’t go home with them I’ll tell you now but you ought to ask Ms Beefy that question. To me, it was a glorious weekend of being amongst women I love being with, who know me well enough to share confidences with and who make me belly laugh. Perhaps not by telling the same joke but each has a joke inside of them that I find hilariously funny. If you can renew your wedding vows, you may as well renew your Hen Do too. Would I still have these same women at my Hen Do? Absolutely, with a few more to throw in the mix too.

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