A perfect blendship

You might ask why I have titled a post with this absolutely howler of a rhyme by the usually reliable Cole Porter.  Perhaps it will give succour to any struggling songwriter to know that even the greats have off-days and, if in doubt, just invent a word to get that all-important rhyme! Mr P later goes on to include the line “a lottle-dottle-dottle-dig-dig-dig” – frankly gibberish – which leads me to believe he was trying to see just how little effort he could get away with in a song: and he would seem to have won that particular bet in some style.

This post will relate to the topic which is the title of the song about whose lyrics I have just been so scathing (and trust me, this while post could have been about how dreadful they are): Friendship.

Slide1

Never one to dodge a cliché

Traditionally, I have maintained a pretty small circle of friends – well, I say “maintained” but this does suggest I’ve been checking their tappets and greasing their nipples to ensure they remain in good running order and I’d like to be clear that I do not (routinely) offer this service.  This circle of (ungreased) trust was primarily made up of people I’d met at work (both past and present, paid and voluntary – the work, not the friends) and would not require me to remove my shoes (or anything more revealing) in order to count using a basic enumeration.

Even the advent of social media did little to increase my friend count, with my total Facebook friends struggling to exceed the basic dozen for many years.  This blog does (according to WordPress) have either ~140 or ~200 “people” following it, but I don’t think I can count most of these as friends and, in some cases, I am far from convinced they would even count as people.  Still, it’s good to know I have some fans among our future masters when the AIs take over!

But over the last year or so, all of this has changed!  It would seem that if you go out for a bit of local culture on a regular basis you meet other people, in a way which simply doesn’t happen if you set at home curled up with a good book or boxset (or not unless you have a very expansive take on the concept of an open-door policy).  Who’d have guessed?  The cultural scene in the city of Southampton is not so vast, in terms of audience, that one doesn’t start bumping into familiar faces after a while.  At some stage, even the most introverted of folk feel some pressure to move beyond an acknowledging nod into exchanging the odd word and this can quickly snowball into actual conversation (unless one is very careful – or creepy).  My tendency to sit in the front row (for the legroom and to spare my hyperopic eyes from undue exertion) and inability to remain stony-faced when being entertained has also meant that not only did some of the audience start to recognise me but so did those on the stage.  My further habit of talking to people – whether they want it or not – may have added unnecessary accelerant to the friend-boom.

I now find myself in the situation where I have lots of friends and it has become almost impossible to go out to anything cultural (or certain pubs – but I feel a good pub counts as culture) without bumping into at least one (and often several) friends.  Over the last couple of weeks, I have even found the circle of friendship impossible to escape in nearby Eastleigh or Winchester.  I’m almost afraid to look around when in London, just in case I see a familiar face.  Bumping into people I know is lovely and great for a good chat, but it is having an impact on the economics of the publishing industry as these conversations are consuming time that I would otherwise spend reading.

Having a group of friends with a somewhat common frame of reference (me!) has changed my use of Facebook rather dramatically.  Rather than only posting very occasionally, usually when bored on a long train journey, I have now started using it to diarise my life with pictures and (IMNVHO) witty observations or remarks.  I rather enjoy this, as it provides an outlet for vaguely amusing thoughts that occur to me as I wander through this veil of tears and which had previously never made it out of the prison of my skull.  Apparently, this is not how soi-disant “normal” people use Facebook and people claim to have befriended me solely to gain access to my exclusive “content”.  Of course, regular readers of GofaDM know that these displays of superficial learning, excessive use of polysyllabic words and increasingly obscure references held together with weak jokes and my o’erweening self-regard are available without ever having to meet or, worse, converse with their author.

Many of my new friends are quite a lot younger than me (chronologically) and this does lead to the situation where partway through recounting a “recent” anecdote, I realise it occurred before any of my rapt(?) audience were born.  Still, on the plus side it does (perhaps) mean that I am moulding (and, in at least one case, breaking) young minds.  This is, of course, a great responsibility which I am failing to treat with even the slightest hint of gravitas.  All of this time spent with the young does feed into my belief that I am still young myself (in fact, I suspect the default internal view of age I hold is currently falling – though sadly my chronological age continues to rise) and does mean I keep trying new things.  Just last night, I found myself in the 6th floor bar of Southampton’s swankiest new hotel – and as regular readers will know, I am a bit of a swanker – to see some friends playing tunes to the 1%.  Whilst I scrub up somewhat successfully, I really don’t feel at home among the wealthy and their foibles and struggle not to laugh out loud in such environments.  Last night I nearly lost it when the straw was introduced to my massively over-priced (and over-iced) beverage using a pair of tweezers – is this really what people insist upon?

Still, this whole friendship malarkey is not all fun and games (and freelance corruption of the young): it does come with some responsibilities.  Several friends and groups thereof have now requested that I provide some sort of gig guide – in the mis-guided belief that as I go out a lot, I must know what I’m doing.  Initially, I am going to try and provide some idea of cultural options for going out in the Southampton area (and occasionally) beyond as a brand new page of this august organ.  This will start fairly basic – it will be a slightly tarted-up copy of the OneNote document I use in an attempt to avoid diary clashes – and I will attempt not to allow it to act as an irresistible incitement to local burglars to divest my rude hovel of its few meagre possessions.  It will start based on my interests – which are broad, but not universal – but may expand to cover as much of the local music, theatre, spoken word and dance scene as I can find the time and inclination to assemble.  I may be amenable to feedback on the format or content, but the author’s opinion is final: however wrong it may be (and it will be very wrong!).

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