Friends like these

In three month’s time, I turn the big 4-0. Being ‘thirty-something’ will be a thing of the past, as will the first half of my life (hypothetically speaking). Life begins at forty apparently, but I’ve never believed in this notion and just lived as fully as I can for a good many years. I will reflect on my thirties at some point, inevitably with rose-tinted spectacles – though to be honest, it’s been an interesting decade. Equally the most tumultuous and amazing decade of my life. Self-discovery and personal troubles tend to go hand-in-hand and one can’t happen without the other.

When I was 35, I had a grand plan to make as many new and interesting friends as I could before I was 40 and have a huge knees up on my birthday. This never happened, but I’m not sad about it. I did make lots of new and interesting friends along the way and reconnected with some old ones, it’s just that the huge party won’t happen. Not just because of the ongoing COVID thing potentially, just the way I am these days. Which leads me to share an interesting turn of events.

The main reason I won’t be having a massive party is really because I would only be doing it because it is probably what is expected, not because it’s me. I had a party when I turned 30, and that really did suit who I was then, but not now. As I said, my thirties have been very changeable and interesting. The mere existence of this blog is proof of that. So as you can probably guess, I’ll be marking my birthday some other way. I always imagined I’d be doing this alone. Until one night a few weeks ago over a catch up drink with my best mate.

We’ve known each other for just over thirty years and watched each other ride the highs and lows of life, supported and advised eachother, and pretty much laughed the whole way. But we are different. We have become more obviously different in the last decade, especially in how we spend our free time. I’m outdoors, fitness, camping, wildlife. He is more expensive meals out, nights out, gigs, social media check-ins and selfies and the like. He does like a good walk though I should point out. This difference is great on many levels and we always talk about what we’ve been up to and as they say, opposites attract. I never imagined that my lifestyle would pique his interest to the point where he wanted to try it, but that’s exactly what happened.

We were chatting about what we’d been up to, and the inevitable milestone (mill stone?) approaching in our lives. He’s still in touch with a few of our old school mates and has been going away a lot of late celebrating their birthdays. If I still haunted social media, I would assume it would be selfies of them with ridiculous cocktails, looking like grandfathers in some dodgy nightclub in Leeds. I would be interested to know how accurate that assumption is. Anyway, the conversation moved to our birthdays – a mere twenty-something days apart in midsummer. I haven’t given my birthday much thought, but he began to suggest doing something together. I thought I might have to whip out my excuses book and come up with a convincing reason why, at the age of 40, I couldn’t go to the metropolis of puke-stained upholstery and ‘having it large’ centre of culture that is Manchester and strut the night away amongst girls old enough to be out but young enough to be my daughter. COVID. No. Too soon. Wedding anniversary. No. I’m not married. Can’t leave the cats on their own. No. They’ll just eat each other. I was trying to think of another excuse when all of a sudden, like an epic scene from the Bible, he said: “I want to go camping.”

This completely astounded me. I never thought this day would come. We chatted about where to go, and decided a symbolic place for both of us and discussed potential dates. Unfortunately however, he’s left the organisation bit in my court. We both have busy lives and I’m just used to packing for one and just getting on with it. I need to advise him on kit, and also ensure he has a good experience, else he might never want to do it again. Cue midsummer thunderstorms and getting struck by lightning (can’t control that much really – acts of God and all that). I’m not the best chef in the world, but I’d love to be able to rustle us up something pretty scrumptious that you wouldn’t really associate with camping, like steak and chips, or even a curry. Throw in some beers and I think it could be spot on. I need to pull my finger out and I really want it to happen, as it could be a one-off. I always think of myself as an ambassador of anything I do, so I’m going to really sell this aspect of the outdoors and make it a unique experience that he might carry for years to come and pass down to younger generations.