Readers may remember my dilemma back in March when I was invited to a summer house-warming party in the UK by a university friend, with whom I was pretty close for some years. I received some excellent advice in the comments, and dithered for a while before making my decision.
At the time, work was thin on the ground, so therefore, cash was in short supply too - thus giving me a suitable get-out to appease my conscience. Could I really justify upwards of a grand going to the UK on a jolly? No.
And my usual yardstick - what would the other person do in my situation? Well, given that she has ample money, and took more than five years to come and visit me for one night (en route from a dressage course near Jerez) I didn't feel like a high priority in her social life. So why should she become one in mine? I wrote more about that here ..
I mentioned in one of those posts that my university friends are my longest standing relationships. I visit them on the rare occasions I am in London, and we exchange Christmas cards.
So what happened this Christmas? Well, as we all know, I am not a fan of Christmas cards. I am so miserable that I think it could be money better spent. But there are a few people and dog people that I exchange cards with, for whatever reason. And that natch includes my three university friends, who never fail to contact me at Christmas, even in my sulky non-Christmassy card years.
First card received from university friend number one before Christmas. Sent to Mr and Mrs Partner's name. (Did this guy know me at university under my own name? Yes. Why does he persist to call me Mrs Partner's name?). Written to Me and Partner on the inside of the card. We knew who it was to, that wasn't really necessary. Didn't bother saying who it was from. Lucky I know the writing eh?
Next - well - nothing before Christmas. I see. There is me, being so organised for once, getting all my cards sent before Christmas and I get one unsigned card from a uni friend. (Pippa and us, did of course, get some lovely dogblog cards).
But while I was in Spain, on roaming, I got a mail from my bestest university friend ever, wishing me Season's Greetings. On 29 December. Hello! Bit late for Christmas sweetie, that was 25 December. A bit like the birthday greeting that I got similarly late last year, via email of course.
Anyway, this really exciting email contained some photos of that wonderful party that I missed. As I was on roaming I wasn't that desperate that I wanted to spend money downloading them in Spain. They would wait for Gibflat. I eagerly clicked on them for a slideshow today.
Well, what a surprise. Did the photos blow up any larger? No, they were the tiniest possible things that you needed a microscope to look at. The luncheon party was hosted in a marquee. Sitty down at tables with posies of flowers every six inches. Endless bottles of wine and champagne. Of course. And there was me thinking it would have been a nice little help yourself buffet in the dining room and a wander round and chat thing. Then there was the 'after party' for those who stayed over. Another hundred people sitting down at a table outside this time. A very long table. Obviously.
Dear reader, I looked at those photos and nearly died at the thought of possibly even going there. Was I ever glad I declined.
The last photo was their latest new dog. Another pedigree cocker spaniel to be used for shooting. I may be wrong as she hasn't actually told me they are pedigrees. They may well be rescued cocker spaniels. I'm not going to be asking though. In fact both my partner and myself took one look at that dog and she so reminded us of one of our previous dogs (Paddy). You don't always need good breeding to look good. (Paddy was a glorious cross spaniel/setter/labrador/something).
Anyways, I decided I had misjudged her and figured there would probably be a card back at Gibflat, she had sent the mail to include the photos. Wrong. Come along, get real. This woman now corresponds by email, belatedly for whatever occasion it is, and is racked off because I didn't drop everything to attend her hi-faluting luncheon party.
But I did get a card and a decent letter from the last of the three university friends. He said he knew it wouldn't arrive in time for Christmas but at least I would have something to read in January. He made the effort though, and nice card and nice letter.
Well, that's the people I have known for years. What about more recent acquaintances - via the internet?
Readers may remember my posts about people who died this year from cancer. Sharon, aged 37, who died in April on her birthday. We had met her the previous year when she came on holiday to Spain with one of our internet friends. A very sad death and one that touched a lot of hearts.
Similarly Claudette, who died in October. Claudette lived in America, but was a dogblog pal with a great sense of humour and a huge amount of goodwill for people.
When she first said she had lung cancer, I was counting the weeks - but it never happened, and I began to think she would just keep going. But it doesn't work like that, and I should know as well as anyone. The end comes quickly, and for Claudette, sadly it came last year. She left a large and irreplaceable hole in the dogblog community.
And speaking of dogs - how many more dear friends - with blogs that I have never met, have gone to the Rainbow Bridge? And how many more remain on death's door, or at best, unhomed in a refuge? As with any year, I continue to be disappointed with the way people abuse and reject animals, the way some search for a 'designer status symbol' because that rescue dog isn't 'quite right' for their family, and the way some people will pay thousands of pounds for that pedigree pup while another person is struggling to pay vet's fees for a rescue dog. (link on Pippa' s for that one). And we all know that some of those lovely pedigree pups still end up being cast off and chucked out.
I have distinguished myself on the internet this last year by falling out with nearly all my nearest and dearest (internet I mean - I don't have any other nearest and dearest). Maybe it was one of those years.
I didn't fall out with all of them. Some of them fell out with me. Perhaps the biggest fall-out occasioned when I asked a genuine open question on Facebook about the proposed American shutdown. And like the American shutdown, I too fell victim to the anti-abortion lobby. Because in America, free speech seems to mean, if I don't like what I read, that you have written, or someone has written with your approval, I will shut you down too.
Now if someone disagrees with me, I am prepared to have a reasonable discussion. Not an emotive one, but at least one that includes a few facts. Because I don't base my views and opinions on biblical garbage (or any other religious garbage) or pro-militaristic, believe-everything-the-government-says sort of crap. So let's hear both sides? Yes?
Now, why should that provoke such repercussions around the boring old superficial internet? It shouldn't of course.
Well this is why. I defriended everyone who was also friends with someone I had considered an internet friend and who suddenly decided I was persona non grata. I know half or most of my friends are Christian, non-vegetarian, pro-military intervention, probably right-on Republican. But I don't defriend them because of that.
To cut to the chase, sometimes you can sit on both sides of the fence but you need to know with whom you are sitting. And that one day - you too may be cut off without further ado.
In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
More about Pastor Martin Niemoller here.
I think these words are really powerful. And I hope I have the courage to always speak up for people whether they share my beliefs or not. And look for the facts and not believe every silly little governmental piece of propaganda that is churned out. But sticking your head in the sand is not the way to go. Nor is trying to be friends with everyone.
So there we go. Fewer internet friends. No Facebook account. Oh wait, the dog has one. Even though it is against FB terms and conditions apparently. Although he is, surprisingly, not the only dog with a FB account. But seriously people, that FB dog account is not there to spy on people who I can no longer see from my own page. Far be it from me to say, but mopping the floor is more interesting. The dog account is because, due to the dogblog, he has a few dogpals. Mostly he goes on, or rather I do (shock horror), to click on Save a Dog and try and get a few cups of feed donated to rescue dogs.
I think these last few paragraphs have more than demonstrated that it is a good idea not to be involved with Facebook. Or forums. Or really anything where you say more to people than hello.
Speaking of which, this month last year, one of my bestest internet friends chucked me. But good things happen to nice little girls and he finally bestowed his much-missed friendship on me yet again.
Everything went swimmingly after that and we exchanged new year greetings a few days ago. And since then? Ah well. I've no idea what I have done wrong this time. Looks like a long and lonely January, and February, and ..... Maybe this year I will get over it.
Happy New Year everyone.
May your friendships be warm and genuine, may you adopt rescued animals, and if you fall out with people - please don't slag 'em off on Facebook - it usually gets back.
And as we used to say in olden days, a prosperous and healthy new year. By prosperous I don't mean rich capitalist - just, enough money to make ends meet at least. Because a lot of people don't have that. And healthy - because that is what we all want. So to all my friends, whether people, or their animals, hope you keep good health and overcome any problems you have.
Uf. I need a week off after all that.