What a month it turned out to be! It’s absolutely whizzed by and I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment.
At the start of the year I signed up to Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project Experience and have been half heartedly following it through. The theme for April was friends – and I kind of poo-pooed it as ‘not-for-me’. During May, however, that came back to haunt me in a big way! It’s not only Gretchen Rubin that advocates friendships, there’s a lot of research that supports the view that friendships are key – especially real life in person friendships, not the social media kind.
I suppose, if I’m honest, that I’ve largely spurned friendships in the past, thinking I’m not really the sort of person people would want to spend time with, which is largely a result of anxiety, but one thing that this month has proven is I have friends in abundance and my thoughts on the matter have been completed incorrect.
My marvellous month started on May 1st with lunch in Albufeira. Just my friend and I. She is my sort of mate – the sort that you know is there for you, but you don’t have to check in every day. The sort that really doesn’t care what you turn up in as the point of the lunch is the talking and the laughter, not the colour of your lipstick or whose shoes you are wearing. In a way that makes it even better, because when we do go out for lunch we have loads to catch up on and we laugh from start to finish. We also went out with our husbands for a beautiful lunch next to the old marina in Albufeira. My friend and I have been several times without husbands who decided they were missing a trick. Having been with us they now understand how we can take 4 hours over lunch!
Then there was the Wine Festival which takes place during the first weekend of May every year in Albufeira. We’ve always been away for it in the past, so this was our first attempt! I tried really very hard to be sensible about it – I really wanted to find a nice Rose that I could drink – rather than Casal Mendes or . What I did discover was that there are lots of beautiful wines available in Portugal, so why the restaurants all serve the same ones, I don’t know. I also learned that after tasting a few wines they all merge into one, making a choice very difficult.
This was closely followed by a walk around Faro with friends from my first teaching post in Staffordshire. I’ve done this walk before and it’s just perfect for showing people a taste of Portugal in a relatively short space of time. It was a fabulous morning walking in the sun, catching up on news and finished off with a pastel da nata with coffee at the O Seu Cafe. I always find it very peculiar when I see friends in Portugal – so to have three of them all at once was a real treat.
Prior to our return to Bristol we went out for dinner with a group of friends we have met in Portugal – some expats and some who holiday regularly in Albufeira. Over the years we have been spending time in Portugal, we have made some really lovely friendships and very much look forward to people coming out to visit. We do also travel the length of the country to return the visits when we are in the UK, so we are off to Burnley in July.
It’s always lovely returning to Bristol as it provides us with an opportunity to catch up, which generally happens on a Friday evening at our not so local pub. At the start of the football season we’d had a friendly wager on how high up the Championship league table Bristol City would finish. Our first Friday home was the presentation evening which was taken very seriously, complete with food, speeches and awards. This is what I would call typically silly British behaviour – but it’s the sort of banter that makes an evening and a friendship.
We’ve been out for dinner, with yet another couple that we love spending time with, to a superb restaurant in Bristol, Pasta Loco, one of the many independent restaurants that are now so popular across the city. We’d been wanting to go here for a long time and were always too late to book – this time I booked three months in advance and it didn’t disappoint, providing yet another evening of good food, good wine and amazing company.
And finally! The wedding! The mother of the bride was one of my friends that had visited Portugal earlier in the month. I’ve seen her 3 times in 2 months, in 3 entirely different locations, and it’s been wonderful. Whenever I go back home, the bride and her mother are always the first people I contact to arrange a time to catch up. Each time, it’s like the months since the last time we met up haven’t mattered, we just carry on from where we left off. I can honestly say that this is the best wedding I have been to – if ever there was a wedding you wanted to be at – this was the one. Everything about it was just stunning – it was true to the bride and her husband and it was perfect. It was held in a place that was special to the bride and it just oozed love in a way I have never experienced at a wedding before. From start to finish, it was about the love of two people (and their daughter) – and that shone through every moment of the day. It was a real honour to have been invited to share in the day.
In amongst all this there have been so many other things I have done with good friends. I went shopping, I’ve been for coffees, I’ve been for dinners, for lunches, walked alongside the River Avon, been along to watch Take That and danced the night away. I even popped into school in Uttoxeter on the day prior to the wedding. In the past I wouldn’t have done this, thinking there would be no-one who would be interested in seeing me. This time I went in and spent a lovely hour catching up with old colleagues – followed by a Saturday morning drinking coffee in a sunny garden wondering where 10 years had disappeared to.
I am incredibly fortunate and so very grateful to have such a wide circle of lovely, loving and loyal friends around me – of all ages and inclinations. I am also so very grateful that I have finally woken up to appreciate what is there in front of me and to take the opportunities to spend time with friends that I feel in the past I have either taken for granted or just plain ignored. The research is correct – real life friendships matter. It’s a long time since I have laughed so much in the company of good friends and I look forward to many more happy times.