There are some bloggers whose blogs you like so much that you think you'd love to meet them in real life. If you’re lucky they like yours too and soon you find yourselves looking for any new posting, commenting, emailing and sharing snippets that have no place in a blogpost, stuff you don’t want to tell the whole world about, but you trust this blog friend enough to open up, in the comfortable knowledge that you won’t ever meet them, so intimate information isn’t going to come and bite you on the bum. Even skyping is safe. You have enough good sense, you hope, not to lay yourself open to ridicule, you only choose to respond to the kind of close questioning you can live with; - actually, somebody who asks too many close questions isn’t going to remain my friend for long.
It’s all lovely, there are oceans between you and your friendship is never going to be tested in the cold light of day.
So you think.
And then you find you’re wrong. Canadians and Americans think nothing of emailing: I’m going to be in your neighbourhood next week/month, can we meet?” It’s happened three times in the past and last month it happened again. Three times in the past I agreed to meet individual bloggers, Pondside from Canada and City Views Country Dreams and Prufrock’s Dilemma from the US. All three ladies were delightful, as delightful as their blogs and very quickly initial slight wariness became genuine warmth.
Last month it was the turn of onegoodsentence, another Canadian who spends half the year in Canada and the other half in the South of France. It’s a tough life for some. Hiding behind onegoodsentence, a blog which has seen no input for exactly a year, is Deborah, an excellent writer who doesn’t write but has promised to apply herself again when the muse moves her.
Emails went to and fro. "Pierre and I are going to a pickleball tournament in Stratford in October. It doesn’t look all that far from Ludlow on the map, so let’s meet, shall we?" There was a time when we emailed and skyped regularly, but lately our contact had come to an end. I was a little surprised.
Why had we stopped our conversation?
How much had I told her about myself?
Did I want to start all over again?
What on earth is pickleball?
Answers: Don’t know.
Hm, not sure.
There is such a thing as over-thinking. After a few false starts regarding meeting-places we decided upon a restaurant close to Deborah and Pierre’s hotel and not too far from Valley’s End, The Clive, named after Clive of India, and part of the Earl of Plymouth’s estate.
Deborah and Pierre were seriously impressed with several items on the menu, which had been sourced from the Earl of Plymouth’s piggery and Lady Windsor’s garden. Deborah took menus home with her, with permission, naturally.
So there. Deal with it, Colonials. No aristos for you. Serve you right for breaking the sacred bond with the Mother Country. Mind you, you probably wouldn’t want to put up with very friendly, but also very slow service. We were there for hours, which suited us.
But, to start at the beginning:
We drove up on a rather chilly, slightly misty October evening. While shutting the car doors I looked over towards the hotel entrance and saw another couple just stepping towards it. Have you ever felt this bolt of instant recognition? It was dark enough not to be able to distinguish much but I knew that the tall woman about to enter the hotel was Deborah. She must have felt exactly as I did, because she stopped dead, peered at us in the gloom, marched over and said my name, adding a question mark to it. Feeling a little insecure I made a joke and asked: “Do I know you?” We grinned at each other and Deborah instantly folded me into a bear hug, real Canadian stuff, strong enough to crack my ribs.
I knew then that everything would be all right.
We were shown to our table and from the moment we sat down to the moment we got back into our cars four and a half hours later we never stopped talking. We ate and talked, ate and talked, doing full justice to the menu and each other. None of this: "Well, if it doesn’t work, if we don’t like each other or our husbands, we can always cut the evening short and make our excuses". I believe we were the first people to arrive and the last to leave the restaurant, asking the sweet young waiter to take our photos. Deborah, tall, slim, elegant Deborah was a wonderful dinner companion, as was her husband Pierre, Deb’s FB in blog parlance, her favourite Belgian. I hope and trust that the two of them liked us too, surely they would otherwise have said: “early start tomorrow, sorry, must be off.” We found that we had so much in common that we could have spent another four hours talking, except eventually, from sheer excitement and the rush to get everything in, fatigue sets in and you have to give up and hope that you will have the great good fortune to meet again.
I also found out what pickleball is: an indoor racquet sport, a thing between table tennis, tennis and badminton. I think.