On Christmas Eve 2004, just as it was going dark, there was a knock at our door. We had been in our new house just three days. There stood a tall, pretty lady and a pretty little girl, the spitting image of her mum. They’d brought us a plant to welcome us to the neighbourhood. They weren’t the first, but they were the first people under the age of 60 and the first people I hoped could become friends.
A few days later, I knocked on their door. I discovered the little girl was exactly a year older than my son and they had a baby boy, just 10 days younger than my baby boy. We made arrangements to get together a few days later.
From there, we became great friends. We spent much of 2005 together. In many ways, they were the opposite to me – open and friendly and welcoming. I like to plan and arrange things, they just liked to do things. We went round to them for barbecues and they came round to us for barbecues. And the dads became friends too – standing at the barbecue chatting with a beer in hand.
The kids got on so well together. At one barbecue they all got covered in paint and talcum powder. There was talcum powder all over the house too. I would have freaked, but my friend took it all in her stride – she liked to encourage craft and messy play. All four kids were dumped in the bath together to get cleaned up.
I’d never had a friend like her before – a friend whose house you could just wander into without knocking. It was lovely to have someone like that so close by. She was one of the first people I told about my pregnancy in 2005 and she became my daughter’s godmother a year later. We had the sort of relationship where we might see each other three times in one day and then not again for several months. It didn’t matter.
They were always impulsive and enthusiastic. They decided to do something and they just did it. I would plan for weeks and months – and often decide not to do it anyway. They were always in love with the sea and would often think about moving there. But as autumn drew in, they would realise how much they loved their house, our village and our town and they would stay.
They had so many friends here. Everywhere she went she made friends. She has such an open way about her, people were drawn to her. I don’t know how she made time for all of her friends, but she did. And she made everyone one of them feel special.
The kids became great friends. The two younger boys would play computer games or play outside on scooters and with the football. He was a member of my son’s football team too and they played in defence together. His dad had helped my husband out with coaching a few times and was going to do more this season.
But the best friendship of all was between my eldest and the little girl, now a feisty 13 year old. It shouldn’t have worked. Boys and girls of that age aren’t friends. And girls certainly aren’t friends with boys a year younger. They went to different schools too.
But their relationship was special. They could spend hours together just talking. My son talked far more to his friend and her mum than he ever talked to us. Lately they’ve been crafting together. She is endlessly creative and has taught him how to make tiny animals with beads.
I took a photo of the two of them before they set off for Scout camp. When I looked at that photo, I realised something. She was his best friend. After his best friend from school moved away, he never really found another friend. There are other kids at school, but none of them are really close friends. I realised his best friend had been there along. Just because she was a girl, a year older and from a different school didn’t mean she couldn’t be his best friend.
They went away for a two week camping holiday by the sea a few days before we set off for Padstow. They got back two days after we did. My husband and kids were out in the road when they got home, so they stopped for a chat. I was inside putting washing away and didn’t go outside. I thought my friend would have plenty to be getting on with, just like me.
‘They’re going then,’ my husband announced when he walked in.
They’d fallen in love with the sea again. But this time they really were going. Later in the autumn, or maybe the new year. I assumed. But they’re them and I’m me. I would need to plan, they just get on and do things.
I kept thinking I must pop round and see them, but I was at work and looking after the kids. The kids saw them, but I didn’t.
Then my mum saw them.
‘They’re starting the kids in their new schools next week.’
Next week?! They were moving in time for the start of term! I couldn’t believe it, I wandered around in a bit of a daze.
On Saturday morning at 7am I looked out of the window and saw them drive away to their new life. I shed a few tears. For me and my son.
He’s lost another friend to the sea. How unfair is that? Two best friends move away to live by the sea in the space of a year. It hasn’t sunk in for him yet, I don’t know when it will. Their house was somewhere he could relax and unwind. What will he do now? We will see them again, of course we will. But we won’t just be able to pop round and the kids won’t be able to play together in the road.
Goodbye my friend.