Lost friends

Lost friends

A while ago, a friend from university (Hello Orlando!) posted a link to this article, about how friendships can slide away from you when you reach your 30s or 40s. It’s an interesting read, but I’m not sure it comes to any real conclusions as to why people, especially men, lose contact with friends when they reach this age. Is it marriage? Career? An ‘out of sight out of mind’ mentality?

I thought about this idea as I was volunteering on a primary-school trip to St Paul’s cathedral with a friend’s science and maths group. On the coach on the way back, we drove past a block of flats in Islington where Nick, my best friend from sixth form, used to live. Even before I’d seen his old place, Nick had been on my mind for a few weeks. I’d even done a bit of internet stalking to see if I could track him down. I hadn’t seen Nick for years, and it occurred to me how much I’d missed him. I recalled a time when he and I had sat either side of our friend Debbie on Salford Crescent Station and subjected her to more than one terrible (and incomplete) rendition of ‘The Farmer and the Cowman’ from Oklahoma.

Similarly, Jindra was a great friend while I lived in the Czech Republic, and I hadn’t heard from him for years either. I was heading to Prague to celebrate my 40th birthday, and I wanted to meet up, but I wasn’t sure he got any of my emails. But, joy of joys, I managed to meet up with them both – Nick at Christmas and Jindra in Prague. And on both occasions, it was as if we had never been apart.

Now I’m not saying that I don’t have any friends now, and it’s difficult to maintain friendships over long distances or even in different countries, but the fact that I had lost contact with these to fine gentlemen made me a little bit sad. And as I reflect on other relationships closer to home that aren’t now what they used to be, I get the same feeling. I realise that times come and times go and sometimes we’re not in a position to keep up friendships because life gets in the way, but I don’t think that we should surrender valued relationships just because we’re too busy.

What should I do about it? Well, I need to pick up the phone and ring old friends. I need to set up times to meet and catch up. I need to get off my bum and make the effort. So, if you haven’t heard from me for ages, get ready for a call…

Happy (belated) birthday, Your Majesty

Happy (belated) birthday, Your Majesty

As I’m writing about recent work I have done, this project seems timely… A few months ago, Scripture Union’s team in the south east of England approached me about writing for the Queen! They were working with Hope, LICC and Bible Society to create a schools’ version of a resource to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday. I was sent the text of the book that Hope, LICC and Bible Society had written and asked to select material and write extra bits and pieces to put together a 12-page booklet for people to use in primary schools.

The book focused on the text of the Queen’s Christmas messages over the years. We don’t know much about the Queen’s opinions on politics, as she tries to remain neutral, but her Christmas messages are one of the few things that she writes herself and they clearly show one part of her life: her faith. It was this that the partner organisations were seeking to help people uncover as the Queen reached this milestone birthday.

It was quite a task to slim down all the excellent material that the authors of the main book had written, but arranging some of the most interesting facts, stories and photographs into three or four different categories helped everything fall into place. I added in some questions to help children think about these different categories for themselves, as well as selecting extracts from the messages themselves. Throw in some great infographics from the designer and the book looks quite good. In fact, it seems to have gone down so well that a reprint is on the way!

If you want to get your hands on the book (celebrations go on into June), then go to Scripture Union’s website. And if you’ve got a similar job that needs doing, get in touch!

Everyone’s a winner baby

Everyone’s a winner baby

I’m a winner! I know, me! Well, not just me. The game that I write, Guardians of Ancora, produced by Scripture Union, won two gongs at the recent Premier Digital Awards. I wasn’t there, so I missed out on the leek and potato soup and the glamorous ceremony. In my head, the opening was like the start of the Tony Awards, but I’m not sure the stage was big enough for that.

Anyway, it’s not often you get recognition for the work that you do, and it’s certainly not every day that someone gives a project you’re involved in an award, so you’ll excuse me if I bang on about it. Sometimes, you work and you work and you work and it still feels like you haven’t achieved anything. The pressure and pace of workflow often means that you move on to the next thing before the previous task is even complete.

This constant momentum can be strangely dissatisfying. It can feel like you haven’t achieved anything. Nothing is celebrated and you don’t give yourself any time to reflect. You might think that this is a by-product of being a freelancer – there’s no one with whom you can mark achievements and rewarding yourself with something seems a bit daft (and it’s quite hard to hi-five yourself). But while I was working for Scripture Union, I had the same nagging feeling that my efforts hadn’t resulted in much.

This career treadmill causes us to forget much of what we’ve achieved. We push on with the nagging fear that we’re not getting any younger. I’m pushing 40 and there’s a sight panic that I haven’t done enough. Quick! Swim with dolphins! See the Grand Canyon! Write a novel! Lunge wildly at the Pope! We see the achievements of other people, younger people, and we compare ourselves with them.

But, it’s all a lie. It’s simply not true. And it’s not true because:

• You’re not someone else. You’re you.
• You’re not your job.
• You’ve changed the world just by living in it.

Simply by saying hello to your neighbour, by opening a door for someone, by being generous when you could have been angry, you’ve achieved something amazing. So, look at your work life, your family life, your friends, what you do in your spare time, and celebrate all your victories. And cut yourself some slack too – not everything you do needs to be a landmark event. You might not get an award, but you can give yourself a pat on the back. And maybe a cake. Actually, definitely a cake.

 

Picture by James Burden.