My social life has got much busier lately. For the whole of last winter it seemed that I only saw my children when they came over (my youngest still lived here officially, but stayed at her boyfriend’s three or four nights a week) and my neighbours if I happened to go outside on the road at the same time as they did. Most days I did not go out at all. My outings were mainly once a week to the town for errands and once every six weeks to a meeting of the wholefood co-op I belong to and order food from. The meeting usually lasts about thirty minutes and then I get a lift home from another member. I also belong to a social group which meets once a month. However, I had not attended any of these social gathering for a very long time. In fact I only attended a first couple of them when we moved here. The main reason for that was that public transport here has at times been very infrequent in the evenings and for a period was non existent. In spite of non-attendance I was kept on the mailing list for events and so was always aware of what was happening.
A couple of years ago the organising was taken over by another person and the nature of the gatherings changed from meetings with speakers and discussions to a more social events. For the past couple of years they have been potluck picnics on a beach; walks with potluck picnics or visits to some member’s home with potluck lunch. The one aspect of all these that has put me off has been this potluck eating – taking some food with me just is not my thing. Just thinking about it blanks my mind totally. Food – I like it. I enjoy eating good vegan food, but please, could someone else cook it for me. I make an effort and cook really good meals at one time of the year, and that one time only: 24th of December I cook a meal based on what we had when I was a child (I have adjusted everything to be vegan and instead of roast pork I have taken another recipe and made it into a special thing for that evening) and 25th of December I cook a really wonderful nutroast with roast potatoes and vegetables. My mouth is watering now just thinking of these feasts.
Back to my social life – I suppose the change started around May this year. I got a newsletter about an event planned for a Saturday for the whole day. It involved visiting a forest garden of a friend (one of the people we knew before moving here) on the outskirts of a little town an hour’s walk from here (ten minutes in a bus). And as the day involved doing some work in the garden the food was provided. There was no need to think of what to take. My poor brain was ok with that.
The day arrived with bright and warm sunshine. Until then I had not been able to decide if I could face going there. But on that Saturday morning I felt a real need to get out and see someone – anyone. It was now or never: I had to break my isolation and face the world. I had not informed (as was requested) the organiser of my attendance as I had not known of it until that morning. I set off catching a bus and walking from the bus stop to the friend’s place. When I was almost there a car stopped next to me. It was the friend whose place I was going to. The event had been cancelled as only one person had shown interest in it. My friend invited me to go on an errand with him and then go and have lunch which he had prepared just in case someone came. I got in the car and duly burst out crying. I wanted to be out of there – anywhere else. Well, not just anywhere, but anywhere at my home where no one could see me crying. My friends was really nice which just got me crying more. But all things come to an end and so did my crying. We ended up having a really lovely time eating and talking when we got back to his place.
My next outing was this same friend’s birthday party which was organised by his mother and was supposed to be a surprise. Only someone had let it slip and my friend had told me that he knew about it and asked me to come asking me not to tell anyone that he knew. Until then I had thought of not going. One of the problems being transport – again. The party was held in a hall a little further away on a Sunday when there were no buses. I and my youngest got a lift from another friend and so we attended. I got through the party mostly sitting on the side and waiting for people to come and talk to me, which quite a few of them did. I think I managed to hide my awkwardness quite well.
Another episode of crying – in the bus this time – led to another social occasion. And later on to an arrangement with a friend, who plays both a guitar and a violin and also sings, to meet at my house weekly for dinner and music practice. She had not played or sang for about 30 years, but wanted to get into it again. I do not do music; I provide the space and listen very appreciatively. This music practice led to her finding and joining a folk club which practices weekly and has a monthly public event in a pub. The first of these monthly events for us was last Sunday. As the place is about an hour’s drive from this village my friend asked another friend with a car to come along.
We had early dinner at my house first. This musical friend is also a good cook. She used to cook in a co-operatively owned and run cafe years ago. She does all the cooking for our weekly meetings and did a cooking for our dinner on Sunday. After dinner we drove through beautiful countryside in the bright evening sun to this distant village pub. There were eight members of the folk club present and three of their guests (including two of us) plus the public in the pub. At first the club members played some music. Then they each took a turn to sing a song others joining in the chorus. They did a few rounds like that. People in pub joined in the singing when they knew the words, quite quickly catching onto to the choruses. It was a most enjoyable evening. I look forward to the next monthly event.