When I look back on 2013 I will remember it fondly as the year when we visited and were visited and when old friendships were affirmed and renewed.
In February, Martha and Gord came all the way from Arviat, via Scotland, to spend a few days with us in Exeter. They were a hit with the girls and I thought for a while that Katie would run away with Gord! We braved the February winds to walk the seafront at Teignmouth and show them Carina from a distance.
In March, I prolonged a work trip to New York to visit Meredith who, after 14 years, was just the same. I spent a delightful Easter in the company of Stedman and Dunn parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, friends, and engaged in perhaps the most intellectually stimulating Easter dinner conversation ever. Maggie, Gavin and Bea became my instant friends, and Bryan Dunn – you surpassed my expectations (and they were high, after all Meredith told me about you). You touched my heart and you are a friend for life.
In July, Lily, Katie and I went to Ireland for a week. On a whim, I contacted Bernard, who I had last seen, only briefly, in 2004. I spent a wonderful evening with Bernard, his wife Moya and their four children, drinking copious amounts of tea and eating cake and apple tart, with tears of laughter rolling down my cheeks.
A few days later I met Gavin. We had business to attend to in Dublin and then he came down to Edenderry to meet my girls and attend a family party. Twenty-four hours of almost non-stop conversation, walking home at dawn like we were youngsters again, solving the world’s problems.
Later in July, back aboard Carina, Elizabeth and Ujarak visited us from Arviat. When I first lived with them, back in 2000, Ujarak was nine years old. What a joy to see the wonderfully interesting young woman she has become. I won’t forget our late evening swims in the sea at Plymouth, and great conversations with Elizabeth about…everything under the sun. And what an impression they both made on Lily and Katie!
In August, Julian’s friend John joined us for a week aboard Carina, sailing with us to France. I didn’t want him to leave. The perfect boat-guest, loved by our children, kind, thoughtful and bringing out the best in everyone. Come sail with us again!!
We spent an afternoon aboard Carina in Brest with Finbar and Florent. It must have been fifteen years since Finbar and I had last seen each other. A bit greyer perhaps (!), but the same old Finbar.
A couple of months ago, Julian was walking down the street in Exeter and bumped into his childhood friend, Rosemary. She too is living in Exeter now, with her husband and two children, and this past weekend, our two families enjoyed a wonderful afternoon together.
And not to forget our few days in Paignton with Sarah, Lisa, Pat, Isabel and Daniel, or our day in Waterford with Niamh, Darragh and Margaret.
There’s a joy in meeting true friends. With some, over a decade had passed since we had last been in each other’s company. In that time our lives have taken twists and turns. Some of us have married and had children. Most of us have been bereaved. We are in places in our lives that we didn’t expect. The friends who are my age, who I have known since university, are in many ways the same as always – kind, funny, witty, warm – but all with added empathy and understanding that none of us possessed when we were 20 or 25 years old. And, without exception, we fell back into such easy conversation, as if only a day had passed since our last meeting. I hope our friendships will endure an eternity.
I have been blessed by good friends in 2013. What’s in store for 2014, I wonder?