A month or so ago I embarked on a beach body beautiful regime to get my wobbly bits under control, ready to mingle with the ‘twenty some-things’ who adorn the seashores of South East Asia, clad in nothing more than a matching set of designer dental floss. After successfully whittling away a few inches here and there and reuniting myself with the firmer bits of my anatomy, last seen quite some time ago, I suddenly met my downfall. I entered the “We just have to go out for dinner to say goodbye properly, I won’t see you until after Christmas!” phase of my travels plans. I realised I’d peaked too soon; goodbye abdominals, jaw line and that satisfying calf ankle bit, nice seeing you, even if for a fleeting few weeks. I’ve discovered a phenomenon; people just seem happier to say goodbye with a plateful of food in front of them, all washed down with a bottle of vino, or two. Why is that?
The last two weeks have been a frenetic foody festival of gossip, goodbyes and gastronomy. There’s been an insatiable urge for my friends and me to share all our plans for the next six months, accompanied by a belly full of delicious treats. I’ve travelled the country catching up with family and friends that in normal circumstances I probably wouldn’t see until next spring anyway. But then this isn’t normal circumstances is it? This is adventure! A fantastic reason to sit down over a table and share a roast dinner, huddle under a beer garden umbrella to indulge in a pint, or gather round the chiminea and toast marshmallows. Adventure brings out the desire to hear all the details, to reminisce about shared past experiences or to plan future escapes. It ignites the imagination, the “Oooooh I’d love to go there one day” dreaminess of jetting off to the unknown. Getting together over a meal just seems the right thing to do somehow, more symbolic of a big occasion, a celebration.
Over the last year, I’ve been lucky enough to meet some wonderful new people. People who have become friends, good friends, potential new BFF’s. Typical, just as I’m trotting off to the other side of the world. Why is it that you can sometimes go months, years even, before bumping into someone new who you think, “I like you, I want to know more about you, and I want to tell you all the daft stuff about me too”? It’s not like I’m antisocial, far from it, I meet new people every day. I just don’t feel the need to become bosom buddies with every new soul I encounter. To meet a new person who has the potential to cross ‘The Friend Barrier’ happens less and less frequently it seems. Sure we’ll accept friend requests from near strangers on social media, but actual heart felt communication with a real live human about emotion, values, problems and ideas fills us with dread at the effort and energy that’s going to take. We’re all so busy living our lives, fulfilling our day to day responsibilities that the opportunity to sit down and actually talk to someone, face to face, about what makes them tick is a rare thing. There needs to be that instant connection, that immediate interest, to convince us that investing the time to build these new relationships from scratch is worthwhile, otherwise we instantly dismiss them as a prospective companion and they remain colleagues, associates, that bloke from the office round the corner. We rely on the old faithful’s; long term buddies, buddies we’ve known since childhood, buddies from university, buddies who know all our secrets, and we know all theirs. These are people we love. People who we know will be there no matter what – our chosen family.
So just as I find myself on the precipice of adventure, instead of filling every last minute in the gym, I’m filling every last minute filling my face; breaking bread, toasting, nibbling and quaffing with friends old and new. The pleasure of chatting with a chum over our chosen repast is simple, yet strong and symbolic. When I waddle out amongst the perfectly honed and toned beach goers of Indonesia and Thailand slightly chubbier than I intended, I won’t feel bad, I know it’s because I’m full of love, not just pizza.