Saturday, November 10, 2007

Calling London

Thursday evening I was thinking about something that Bron (of coolthisaword - see in my links on the right) blogged about a while back - how we 'do' community across distances. Her conclusion was that, actually, it can't be done. I've been thinking about that a lot, on and off.

She's right that for community to work, you have to be able to see each other, spend time with each other, physically be there for each other. But her question, and the one I've been really thinking about, was what the implications of that are for long-distance friends.

I don't have an answer for that, not yet anyway. But on Thursday it suddenly hit me that I will never again be able to walk down Balham High Rd to pop in at Bertie and Boo's for a fresh smoothie, or share a hot chocolate/ tea with Sarah and Sara in Starbuck's, or buy my fruit from the market, or get some curry from the take away place near the tube, or have coffee in the park with my NCT group, or walk across the common to Lucy or Sue's house for GG or a coffee, or bump into folk from church as I wander down the high street.... or any one of a hundred little things I used to enjoy doing.

Even if I were able to afford to visit the UK again, or even if we were to move back, it would never be the same again. We wouldn't be able to live in the same flat. Our friends would probably be in different places (Sara has already moved to Sweden - by the by, LOVED the photos of the caravan conversion on fb!! Sam is a serious DIY hero!), and life just wouldn't be the same. The community that I was part of is no more.

And I think that's what I'm mourning right now - that things have changed. Yes, I miss my Growth Groups terribly. Yes, I miss London (who would EVER have believed I would have said that?!?!). I miss the commons. I miss my little garden. I miss all the things that go with living in a 1st world country (like public transport that works, a national health system that works, and a better standard of living). I miss a really good curry. I miss Terry Wogan (yup, I'm a TOG). I miss BBC Breakfast. I even miss being able to laugh at the chavs. I miss my drive to work. I miss Janel's childminder, Ashley. I miss my friends from work. I miss the long evenings and early mornings in summer. I miss the cherry trees in blossom. I miss the cold, crisp winters and moaning about how infuriating it is to get a snow storm in London (because London is not equipped to deal with snow). I miss the culture of walking everywhere. I particularly miss bumping into friends and church people on the road because we were living in the parish. I miss living on the doorstep of my church. (Stephen, the LOCAL church is SO the hope of the world!)

I really miss BBC radio 2... in SA the music is 99% R&B - it all sounds the same to me. So on Friday morning, as I was driving to work and listening to KfM, I was caught by surprise to hear a song I'd last heard in the UK. I promptly burst into tears, because it reminded me of my afternoon drive home from work when I'd listen to the 'interesting facts' thingy while Nellie slept in the back of the car. In the midst of my tears, I caught myself thinking, "I just want to go home" and by 'home' I meant London. I miss my community there.

It took me two years to get used to being in London. I guess it'll take me another 2 to get used to being back home. We have to start all over again with forging relationships, building community, finding a niche for ourselves. It's hard work, but what hurts most is that the friends we had when we left (those still left in Cape Town) haven't ONCE picked up the phone to say hi, or invite us out. Not once. Some have made the effort, at least, to come along to stuff we've invited them to, and it's been great seeing them. Some couldn't even be bothered to do that. Not one of them, even the ones I expected to be sympathetic about Zoe, has picked up the phone to ask how we're coping - or even emailed us. Not one. Overall the message we're receiving from them is that, quite frankly, we might as well not be here, because we mean nothing to them and they obviously aren't keen to have us back as part of their lives, and that they actually don't care that we've just lost our daughter because they don't care about us. And that hurts. So much for friendship.

What's worse though, is that my family (apart from my parents) haven't phoned to invite us out either. Graeme's siblings have invited us out. Mine haven't. And the reason I wanted to come back to Cape Town was because I wanted to be near my siblings. Of course, one of mine has just upped and emigrated to the UK (2 weeks ago). (I understand his reason for going, but his timing sucks. I couldn't go to the airport to say goodbye because I was too cross. Then I felt like a twit afterwards because now I haven't said goodbye.) And again, they haven't asked us about Zoe either. None of them, apparently, want to know about her. Even Graeme's family haven't asked me, although I think he has had one or two conversations with his brothers.

So all in all, I'm feeling like I've been kicked in the teeth by friends and family alike. Not surprising then that I want to move back to London.

Which brings me back to my point. How does community work? My friends in the UK are miles away and we can't be community. My friends in SA aren't friends and obviously don't want community with us. So I guess we start again, but where? with whom? and do I really have the energy while I'm grieving Zoe to be trying to make new friends? I don't know that friendship & community are the same thing, but I really don't have the energy to be building community with people I'm not friends with....

Sigh! I'm just too tired to deal with all this. Living the reality that I anticipated (see posts from earlier in the year) is a lot harder than I thought I would be. And to those who said that they were sure things wouldn't be as bad as I was anticipating, all I can say is - you were wrong.

So tomorrow we're off to try a new church, one that we can walk to in summer, one that apparently has a lot of kids stuff going on, one where nearly no-one knows us, one that we might be able to start afresh in, because one can't go back I've discovered... it's just too painful. My counsellor is right about one thing - we might as well have moved to Jo'burg or New York. Apart from the Mountain everything else in Cape Town is different.

The only possible 'up' I can see in all this is that I've been spending some time with some cousins I hardly ever spent time with before. I'm rediscovering how lovely they are, and Nellie is making some friends. Maybe I'm not going to be as close to my siblings as I want, but at least some of my family may well become community.

I really, really miss you guys in London... there simply are no words to describe the hole in my heart where you were.

Sorry - this wasn't at all what I wanted to blog about. I didn't want to be all morose and morbid. I had planned a nice, intellectual discussion on the nature of community, and instead all this stuff came tumbling out. I'm doing ok. Really I am. I know it doesn't sound like it, but I am. I'm managing and coping and I even manage to laugh a lot. But this stuff is in here, in my head and in my heart, and because I have so few people I can really talk to, this blog becomes the place where a lot of this stuff has to come out. Sorry.
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