Saturday, 22 September 2012

Who you Gonna Call?

Would you mind awfully picking my children up?
I've glued a massive phone to my head.
When I was 18, I packed my belongings into my Auntie's car (she of the 'The Future's Orange' post) and she transported me a couple of miles away to where I was to rent a room in a big house.  Oh the freedom, the excitement, the being skint because all of my wages went on rent and the train fare to Reading.  It was pants, and walking two miles to ask my mum for a week's supply of baked beans was a joke so I decided that I would move  to the town that is almost a city (you've got to admire the optimism of Reading Borough Council who have decreed that the buses shall say 'city' in the belief that one day the Queen will bestow that honour).

Anyhow, to Reading I went and if I thought that living in a rented room two miles from home was bad then living 25 miles away was in many regards worse.  I had more money but I was now a long way from my family and the friends that I had grown up with. I didn't bump into people I knew any more, we didn't have mobile phones and so, as often happens, we started to lose touch.  I regularly went back 'home' for full-on weekends of merriment which made the weeks feel even more lonely.  It was during that period that I realised that making truly good friends (you know, the ones you can call at 2am through a haze of tears and snot and they wouldn't disown you) takes a lot of time and shared history.

Happily I stuck it out, more of those friendships came (and still endure), and it's because of that move that I met my husband so I have much to thank my teenage determination for.  It also meant that I came to value those good friendships even more.

What is interesting to me now is how this works when you are a parent without those strong friendships in place where you live.  For many of the parents at my daughter's school, this village is the second or third place we've lived so lots of us are away from the traditional friend and family networks we may have enjoyed if we'd stayed where we were born.  What was so lovely when my daughter started school was that within the first term phone numbers were exchanged in case anyone needed a hand in an emergency.  We all knew how stressful things can become when you're trying to run a family, manage your career and make an attempt at a social life.  We all understood that mornings do not run smoothly and that the A34 is a magnet for jack-knifed lorries that prevent us from making pick-up.  We all appreciated that not everyone can make time for sports day / harvest festival / assembly.  I have been the person to take the "Sh*t! I'm stuck in a 12 mile traffic jam, can you pick my kids up please?" call and I have been the person that has made it.  

Whether deepest, closest friends or not much more than acquaintances, everyone is up for helping each other out at a moment's notice when it comes to the children and that has an incredibly positive impact on everyone's experience of school.  There are no tallys to be kept or expected favours - it's just how the village works.  As long as we remember the right number to call when drunk and emotional and feeling like someone to talk to....... 

Soundtrack: Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr.

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