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

Mrs Steamer…….When you just know

on August 3, 2014

Sometimes, it’s not just the people you’ve known the longest who come to mean a great deal to you.

Mrs Steamer and I were colleagues at the National Deaf Children’s Society (www.ndcs.org.uk) for just under two years. It’s not a huge organisation and although we both work in Fundraising we didn’t really cross paths that often because I and a few others were hidden away in an outbuilding.

Incidentally we once saw Mackenzie Crook filming outside our window. Nothing hugely dramatic, he was smoking a cigarette whilst loitering down a back alley. Maybe he was just there smoking a cigarette.

Then I got a new job with Cancer Research UK and just a few weeks before I was due to leave, I was moved to sit opposite Mrs Steamer. If it wasn’t for this decision by the Director of Fundraising to get someone to keep tabs on me in my final weeks then this friendship wouldn’t have blossomed.

And she totally did keep tabs on me. More or less asking me everyday whether I was actually doing any work or more to the point did I have any work to do with me leaving in a few short weeks. Pah, the impertinence of the young.

That’s the thing that took me by surprise really, I thought her youth would mean we would have very little in common. I was just about to get married in a few months and she was a mere fledgeling in her mid twenties. I thought she’d be out every night Clubbing and shouting ‘Choon’ so you can imagine my shock one Friday when she was in a hurry to get home. Fridays are for FNBs -Friday Night Beers. The more impromptu the better. ‘What are you up to?’ I asked. She replied with ‘Guitar Hero 3 has just come out and I’m really looking forward to trying it out’. Really? Come to think of it, that could have been a dealbreaker.

However, I’m glad it wasn’t because she really can do some heartfelt, full of soul air guitar renditions worthy of the Annual Air Guitar World Championships, yes it’s a real life event. As demonstrated at our wedding. I once changed my Facebook profile photo to one of her really going for it on her air guitar, totally lost in the moment and wiping the floor clean with any other pretenders whose presence she was oblivious to.

I may have mocked her at the time but when Guitar Hero came out for the Wii, well you can guess who quickly got addicted to it.

As new friendships go, especially the ones that start with work, you can generally have a really good time with people whilst you work together. That shared camaraderie of office politics and after work beers in the local pub. But some rarely go beyond that and some are lost once you or they move on. I sometimes wonder about the colleagues I worked with some ten years ago who I don’t keep in touch with. You spend more waking hours with them than anyone else and suddenly you don’t see them anymore.

Just before my Leaving Do, something clicked (whilst drunk no doubt) that said I think this work colleague could be something else. It was presumptuous of course and also a bit weird too. I was getting married in just over three months time, the Hen Do was in two months but I felt like I really would like Mrs Steamer to be part of it. For once the occasion had passed then I wouldn’t want to feel like I really wished she’d been part of it too. But equally, it’s quite risky to invite such a new friend to your wedding. What if they don’t feel the same way? What if they really do think you’re weird? What if they were only being polite? It’s risky. So best do it when drunk.

Then of course I had to break the news to Husband that I was planning on inviting someone he didn’t know and who I’d barely known that long to our wedding. He needed some convincing and then we had that awkward first Couples meeting in a pub in Highgate one Sunday afternoon. So what do you do? You get steaming of course! I wouldn’t recommend this course of action the day before you’re about to start a new job.

Trust your instincts people say and I’m glad I did as by chance I have a really wonderful, funny, often wise and straight talking friend that I really wouldn’t want to have missed out on. When Husband had his leaving do and I was eight weeks preggers and not ready to declare the news publicly, she was the decoy gin downer and when Husband went off to Singapore she came along with me for that first scan I had at the hospital. With her above average sized family, she’s been able to offer advice and anecdotes that puts the small stuff into perspective or be that supportive person who completely allows you to rant about it.

When she officially became Mrs Steamer to Mr Steamer, it was a wedding that we knew we had to come back for with a three month old #1 in tow. It’s been impossible to come back to the UK for every occasion and it is with sadness that I’ve had to miss out on some special occasions but there are some that happen which you know you can’t let pass you by. She looked absolutely stunning and the whole day was fabulous. When you see someone in the midst of their own family, you can really see what influences they’ve had upon them to be the person they are.

In the year or so between declaring ‘I really want to be your friend’ to my leaving Singapore, I had some really good laughs with Mrs Steamer and Mr Steamer. We used to live fairly close to each other and I was always amazed at how he would appear like the Shopkeeper in Mr Benn to come and pick us up from the pub. I used to say, you are so lucky he keeps coming to pick you up and whilst she would protest it was reciprocal, I was never fully convinced. The downside to this arrangement is that there was always a sober person to bear witness to your drunken disgrace and so Mrs Steamer would be armed with plenty of ammunition the following day.

Together as a couple, they are exactly the kind of people you want at a dinner party. They both complement each other, are very easy going and incredible fun. They’re the kind of people that you want your other friends to get to know and befriend. They’re the sort of influence that #1, 2 and 3 will no doubt enjoy being around and consider a lot more fun than we, the rule wielding, fun restricting parents we no doubt will seem to be to them.

She’s the best person to teach the girls how to apply mascara, the only person I know who truly feels ‘naked’ without it on and would have to buy some on the way to work. She’s one of the best foodies around and it was with her, Mr Steamer and Big D that we went on Gordon Ramsey’s The F Word (Series Four it was) and Big D got his big TV moment with describing our pudding as ‘zingy’ which he then claimed got overused by subsequent diners. She’s loyal to work and to friends and I feel privileged that we’re part of that too.

In those early days, it may have seemed forward in asking someone you’ve only really known for a few weeks to make plans to come on your Hen Do and wedding but when you know, you just know. I’ve been in Singapore a substantial part of the time I’ve known her for but it hasn’t hampered our friendship. She’s been to see us up in Skipton for real pork pies when we’ve been back to the UK and out to visit us here, timing it just right when #2 was six months old so that I could go out and get steaming too. Uncle Monkey was also visiting at the time and let’s just say we went to some Tourist attractions that was a first for all of us.

It’s her Birthday today, perhaps a more sedate affair than the steaming ones of a couple of years ago but I’m sure she’ll have great one. Happy Birthday Mrs Steamer! I miss you and I can’t wait to see you soon and meet Little Miss Steamer.

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