They had a dog called Ben. After a few polite exchanges they must have made up their minds that I was a Nice Person, and so one afternoon they gave me tea and cake, and a look inside their caravan. Then we sat outside and chatted. I found them very pleasant, very sweet, and I enjoyed their company and hospitality very much. We swapped addresses, as you often do on caravan sites. We also took a couple of photos. I wanted to remember them, and once I had my trusty digital Leica out, they disinterred their trusty film camera. Back home, I kept a promise to write and enclose prints of my best shots.
I did not really expect to hear from them again. We lived too far apart. It would be one of those memorable encounters with no follow-up.
Then, yesterday, I got this. After six months.
Wow. I was touched, almost to the point of tears. To think that I had been thought of, after a space of six months. And with the card came prints of two photos they had taken of me, that I had quite forgotten about. Here's one of them:
That's Fiona and my caravan. I was about to drive off for a long day out in Fife, and would see the Forth Bridge, view lots of pictures at Kirkcaldy, buy Rosie (my Wemyss Cat), walk the streets of St Andrews, and end up devouring fish and chips at Anstruther.
It was too late to send Vera and Charlie a Christmas card. But I will write to thank them in the New Year.
I seem to relate many heartwarming tales of how my caravan holidays generate friendships along the way. I suppose it must help that I'm not shy and reserved, and that I'm quick to detect a kindred spirit. But in my situation, I can't afford to be any other way. In the Old Life I was subdued, rather secretive, and my private life was determined by my partners, and populated with my partners' family and friends. I made almost no friends of my own. How surprised those Old Life people, who thought they knew me inside out, would now be! And items like Vera and Charlie's Christmas card prove to me that it isn't simply a case of caravan site bonhomie, so easy to assume, so easy to set aside after saying goodbye.
Friendship is so important. It costs nothing to be approachable, pleasant, cheerful and helpful.
I do wonder sometimes whether Making Friends and Valuing Others ought to be a compulsory school subject, taught continuously from the nursery stage, and repeatedly examined throughout every pupil's school career. If all children were taught the reasons why it's good to make friends, what the advantages are, and exactly how to do it successfully, then I'm sure it would help an awful lot of kids to enjoy a brilliantly rewarding childhood, and confine any tendency to bully and disrupt to the children who are frank psychopaths. Such teaching would also help them resist the pressures at home and elsewhere to take sides, to become prejudiced, and to believe that certain people should be sneered at, pushed around, and perhaps killed without pity.