Should old acquaintance be forgot…

Towards the end of the year the Boulevardier’s ponderings are reflective. I embrace sentiment and this time of year lends favourably.

The song that we link hands and arms to, and sing at the stroke of midnight, and usually through an alcohol hazed fog, makes me not only ring in the New Year but think on old acquaintances   – particularly those whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in a while.

When we are young(er) we push forward into life enthusiastically and rarely look back. I think back to the time of leaving school. These were the days before the (American) Prom was born in the UK and we collected our exam results and scattered to the corners of the country/world pursuing our dreams whether travel, education or employment. Of course there are those we stayed in touch with and I am proud to still be in regular contact with several members of my junior school class.

Those that were acquaintances rather than close friends were rarely brought to mind.

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This all changed in 2000 with the advent of Friends Reunited. WOW! A revelation indeed. In the early days of that site you could enter your details against your school year and send messages to other classmates (as long as both had paid for membership).

Social networking exploded thereafter with Facebook and Twitter seeming to take lead positions. Photos, stories, drama and the mundane acts of life unfold in our newsfeeds.

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I have been involved in both attending and coordinating reunions arranged over social media. We have set up school pages and everyone has added school photos.

This simply wouldn’t have happened 20 years ago.

I have met, re-met, and become friends with those who were previously acquaintances and realised what great friends we could have been at school too. I’m not going to give myself too hard a time about it though as my school was massive with over 1500 pupils and my year alone was in excess of 250. However, I suspect that irrespective of the size of the school, lots of people who are a similar age to me will report comparable experiences.

Social media comes under the scrutiny of those who believe it’s taking away from real life, person to person interactions. If I had a pound for every time someone said ‘I don’t need Facebook, as I see my friends.’ I would be a very rich man. Some of these sceptics have subsequently become avid social media users.

As long as there’s perspective you can reach a much wider audience than you would through traditional methods and help maintain remote and infrequent friendships.

For example how many postcards would we previously have sent from holidays? Ten maybe? And how many would arrive after the holiday had expired?

My newsfeed on Facebook is awash with shots of beautiful beaches, sunsets, and bronzed (sometimes red) friends in real time.

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I suspect the term ‘friends’ is the reason some became foxed. Not everyone who I connected with on Facebook would be classed as a friend in traditional terms. One definition is someone who you know, like and trust. My connections are a multifarious collection of people from school, work and previous places of employment, work clients, those I’ve played internet- based games with, those with similar interests connected through mutual friends, and some I’ve come to know through other networking sites like Twitter.

When I became ill at the beginning of 2013 and looked for support I went to Facebook. The volume of wellwishers and kind thoughts was overwhelming through my posts and private messages.

Problems start to incur however, when some start to live their lives through Facebook and stop engaging in real life. Social Media addiction is also a recognised condition. But this is a story in itself and not part of my reflection today.

It will be interesting to look back in twenty years and understand whether those who are young and leaving school in the Facebook era stay in more regular contact with a larger group throughout their lives and whether this does impact on real face to face meeting.

In any event I shall post on New Year’s Eve a message of gratitude and well wishes to all those I am in contact with over social media and be grateful for the love, support and laughs we have shared either in real life or online as both are invaluable to me. And that includes YOU, all my lovely blog readers!

May 2014 prosper for y’all!

TNW

Tis the season to start getting ready for the season

What is it all about? Your Boulevardier loves immersing in the spirit, the smells, the tastes (especially the mulled wine), the sparkle and the music. I have already had celebratory dinners with good friends, attended early Xmas parties, a festive show by Mari Wilson, an orchestral winter concert, a Christmas musical show hosted by the Supreme Fabulettes and a 40th birthday bash. Yet to come are classy lunches, a carol concert at Westminster Abbey and of course the Selfridges sale on Boxing Day.

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But does it really mean anything else to me, something deeper?

It’s quite often said that no one should be on their own for Christmas or not get a hot meal. But there are many people worldwide who are alone and lonely, and without a hot meal on the other 364 days of the year. Do they feed lonelier at Christmas because they are told to?

I love the superficial side of Christmas as sited above but struggle with the deeper meanings or real sense of giving just because of the season.

Conversations surround us of anxiety to make certain gifts are appropriate and appreciated. I do actually prefer to give presents when someone needs or wants something, or for an event such as a wedding or anniversary.

Is it a time of goodwill to all men? Or is it a time when people put up a faux happiness and allege a sanctimonious good will to all?

I wasn’t sure.

And then I heard something several weeks ago which has moved me tremendously.

The Haberdashery, an independent café in Crouch End, which I have previously wrote about put out the following message:

We need your help! Please read…

On Christmas day we will be providing Christmas Dinner and entertainment
to about 30 elderly people that would otherwise either have no means to celebrate,
or be lonely.

This will happen at The Haberdashery in Crouch End.

The guests will be chosen by AgeUk, a local charity that looks after
elderly lonely people.

On the day we will provide Christmas Dinner (with all the trimmings),
drinks, Bingo, Secret Santa, music and lots of happiness!

I need your help though.

There are many ways to help:

– donating any amount of money (even £1.00 would help!) to go towards the
food and drinks for the day (any extra money leftover will be donated to
AgeUk)
– donating a present for secret Santa
– donating a bottle of wine or something that would be consumed on the day
(mince pies/Christmas pudding/turkey etc…). Please do get in touch if
you want to donate food/drinks so can organise not to have 20 turkeys and
no booze!
– fundraising through your friends/family/customers/circles… Seriously,
£1.00 each could make the difference!
– by donating any old item you might do not want anymore: we will have a
table selling all the donations at the Christmas Barboot at The
Haberdashery. Books, shoes, clothes, anything will do!
– spreading the word through twitter, facebook, word of mouth…
– putting me in touch with someone that might be able to help with
discounted food or someone that might want to donate for this cause

Any donations would be extremely helpful!

For the first time in years I am looking forward to Christmas day like
when I was a kid!!! Super excited!!!

Spread the love,

Massimo.

It was clear to me then. The religious, and the sanctimonious reasons for Christmas don’t matter. It is a time when the truly generous in our midst get together to be with family and friends, and help those in need.

The elderly in our society are often overlooked unfortunately, and have only their memories of enjoying wonderful Christmas lunches and celebrations in the past. Surely the elderly will rejoice the most in sending and receiving Christmas cards. They won’t be as competent online or use Facebook or Twitter. However, how can they send cards when the cost of a second class stamp is now 50 pence. When you multiply the price of cards and stamps by the amount you send the cost skyrockets.

Family is so important and I wouldn’t miss Christmas lunch at my parents. The time with my ageing parents, aunties and uncles is precious. However, I want to make sure the Haberdashery have all the help they need with this amazing and selfless initiative.

I offered to go and help, but they already have so many helpers on the day, which is fantastic in itself. I have to say I’m not sure my waiting skills would be up to much, but I would make a great welcomer or accompanying Sherry drinker.

So it’s the fundraising that I’ve focussed on. I set about speaking to a number of local retail businesses and was overwhelmed by their generosity to this cause. Any surplus generated will be presented to Age UK.

If you live in or around Crouch End, own a local business or have the means to contribute please let me or the Haberdashery know.

This to me is Christmas. It’s time to help those less fortunate than us and I think a Boulevardier engages in these activities and gives his all…

I even have a few decorations up at home (some borrowed) to really get into the swing which makes the Sherry taste much sweeter!

Have great holidays my lovely readers!

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TNW

Mamma Mia – Here we go again…

Too many times we see and hear about non-acceptance of diversity and difference. And whether it’s about race, culture, sex or sexuality, people can shun, disregard and hate what they don’t understand. They really don’t know what they are missing out on.

As a displaced Boulevardier I always try to embrace diverse and different behaviours and people, and learn to laugh and love our differences. I wanted to share a few experiences with Catia, also known as the Roman Drama Queen. She says that in her native land, Italy, she is viewed as laid back and chilled. I’ll let you decide.

In 2006, and amid an exchange of words, I met my good friend Catia in San Antonio, Texas. We had vehemently disagreed about a situation which had occurred on the forum on which we were both members. However, disagreements in new friendships help us to better understand each other and it’s not the disagreement that matters but the way we deal with it.

She is still a good friend today and we have not disagreed since our initial period. She can’t live without a displaced Boulevardier in her midst and I couldn’t live without a true Italian drama queen in mine. Regular readers of my blog will have seen her appear in the previous entry ‘Breakfast at Prada’.

Let me expand.

A small contingent from various parts of Europe decided to descend on Rome to visit Catia in 2007. We came from Austria, The Netherlands and England. Marc and I stayed at a local hotel on the outskirts of Rome while Martina and Florian resided at Catia’s well-appointed apartment.

On our first evening together we met at our hotel and were all catching up over a glass or six of Prosecco while waiting for taxis to transport us to the centre of Rome for dinner. Catia disappeared and I suddenly saw her in the reception area taking deep breaths with her hand poised dramatically on her brow. I wondered what had happened and mused whether poor Catia had received some dreadful news. I left our party and moved to the reception area.

‘Catia, is everything OK? What’s happened darling?’ I asked in a concerned manner.

Catia took several deep breaths and looked it pain. She threw her arms in the air and declared ‘It’s the taxis. They are going to be twenty minutes late!’ She paused dramatically between the last three words as if announcing a death.

I hugged Catia and asked her to calm down and reassured her we were in no rush and would simply enjoy another cold bubbly Prosecco. Every cloud eh. And there Prosecco comes in the most commodious large glass sized mini bottles. Genius.

She subsequently informed me that this was not really a dramatic reaction and I had yet to see a proper Italian dramatic reaction.

Catia and I have often visited each other. She is passionate about the misappropriation of Italian food. On one of her visits we met some friends in Pizza Hut, Colchester. One of the party declared

‘Oh ‘ow funny. Ca-ia (t dropped in an Essex style) has visited us from Rome and we took ‘er to an Italian restaurant.’ This was followed by cackles aplenty.

Catia did not cackle. She took several of her now infamous deep breaths and announced

‘There is NOTHING Italian about this place. It’s American. That is why I order salad!’

It doesn’t stop there. Italians, or rather serious foodie Italians, don’t allow any consumption of milk after midday. It’s apparently something to do with the digestion of dairy products. I would like to ask how they manage to consume cheese on their evening pizza but would not dare.

I may not partake anymore but I used to enjoy a café latte at most times of the day, but particularly after a meal. Not only is warm milk something of an acceptable evening habit in the UK but I like to dilute the taste of coffee. Yes, I like coffee but not when it’s really strong and lashings of milk make it significantly more palatable.

When in Rome eh.

Catia was quite determined that I would not have a latte after my dinner. I implored and pleaded and basically begged. After many deep breaths and sighs Catia attracted the waitress’s attention and I heard the following.

Catia “Guardi, lo so che e’ terribile, ma potrebbe portargli un caffellatte? Abbia pazienza, sa, e’ Inglese…”

Waitress: “Ma come si fa, dopo i ravioli?!”

Catia: “lo so lo so, non ci faccia caso”

Waitress: “Vabbe'”…

I didn’t need an explanation to know that my request was not appreciated. The word Inglese with the accompanying rolling eyes told me all I needed to know, but the translation is as follows:

Catia: “Look, I know it’s terrible, but could you get him a latte? Bear with him, he’s British, you know”

Waiter: “For god’s sake, after the ravioli?!”

Catia: “I know I know, just don’t mind him”

Waiter: “Whatever'”…rolling her eyes…

This was of course delivered in the best Italian dramatic but good humoured way.

We learn to accept each other’s cultural idiosyncrasies and enjoy what had drawn us together and made us such close friends.

A few weeks ago I had a wonderful weekend when Catia visited me in London.

My coffee taste had moved on and I was proud to tell Catia that I now enjoyed Americano. She huffed and called it soup!

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Apparently it’s espresso or nothing.

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We went to a café opening on Friday evening where we were treated to an innovative blue grass band (you don’t see much country in London), and headed on Saturday to Turville, where not only Vicar of Dibly was filmed, but also the windmill from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I can tell you that the windmill is on quite the hill. There is no way that Truly Scrumptious’ car would have made it up there. I guess that’s the magic of film.

We sat in a picturesque pub in Turville along with another great friend, Sarah. I was feeling a little chilly due to the November temperatures and blood thinning medication, whereas the two ladies (of a certain age) were feeling rather warm. They are of a certain age but apparently not of that certain age. They were however experiencing hot flushes usually experienced by ladies of a certain age. I was told in no uncertain terms that both were having earlier than expected symptoms.

It would seem that our differences are not only cultural.

We spoke and laughed and ridiculed ourselves about our differences and differences in culture. Catia said that ‘Brits talk about the weather and Italians talk about food!’

I did manage to persuade her to embrace one cultural difference…

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Isn’t that what we should focus on? Let’s celebrate our differences and find a way to truly love each other. There is too much hatred and negativity in the world.

My shared experiences with my gorgeous Italian friend are superficial and slight, but surely if we learn to love and laugh in whatever situation we find ourselves true karma with find and bless us.

TNW