There are many wonderful benefits to living in such a beautiful part of the world as Vancouver Island, but one we really appreciate is that people line up to visit us here! Since we landed on this rock almost a decade ago we have been fortunate to receive visitors from all over the place on a fairly regular basis, but it is particularly rewarding when folks from our old lives, especially from our/my time in England, make the effort to come see us. We know it is not a cheap passage, so we are always very grateful indeed when it happens.
This year has been really good for visits from friends old and new, but soon and into 2017 it is about to get even better. Next weekend a lovely woman I have known for twenty years is about to drop by as part of a longer visit to Canada and the US.
I met Lisa in 1996 in unforgettable and bizarre circumstances, and although in the interim - because we have always lived in different cities (and now, countries) - we have probably only hung out a dozen or less times - she remains a quietly huge presence in my life. Because I met Lisa, the dominoes started to tumble, and my life changed enormously as a consequence.
In 1996 I was travelling around the world for a full year, and when on the island of Java in Indonesia I was privileged to visit the astonishing city of Yogyakarta. One evening I was standing on the balcony of the hostel that was home for a time, watching smoke rising from, and a glowing orange 'dribble' of lava moving down the side of, Mt. Merapi, way off in the distance. Merapi is an extremely active, sometimes dangerous volcano in one of the most volcanic regions on earth, so although utterly mindblowing to me this was a fairly common sight to the locals. As I watched in awe, a young woman came up the stairs, said hello, and asked what I was looking at. "That!" I replied, pointing at Merapi.
My girlfriend and I continued travelling around Java, bumping into Lisa and her then boyfriend, Tom, elsewhere, then we arranged to meet in Jakarta and see the sights of that insane city together. After Jakarta we parted ways after exchanging contact details, and vowed to reconvene when back in England. Lisa lived, and still lives, in London, but continued to travel for quite some time after we returned home in February 1997. Long story short, she eventually visited me in Brighton, bringing with her her best friend, Julie...and all these years later Julie is one of our favourite people on earth.
Julie ended up moving to Brighton, and into a house with my ex-girlfriend, who I had been travelling with. Soon after that Julie's boyfriend followed her to Brighton, but - even longer story short - they eventually split up...and he and I started sharing an apartment! This was Tam, son of Elton John's guitarist, Davey Johnstone. (I know, I couldn't make this up!) And on the dominoes fell...
Anyway, I haven't seen Lisa for around 13 years, and Susan has only ever met her once, so we are thrilled for this visit, even though it will be brief. I love reunions and this one will be special.
Even better is to come in August next year when my dear old friend Shemmi, from my years in Birmingham, will be headed our way for a three day stay, with his beautiful wife Charn and their two adult children, Suresh and Zeeta, whom I have never met. I was at Shemmi and Charn's wedding 33 years ago, but have not seen Shemmi since 1989, two years after moving to Brighton. I am so excited about seeing my dear pal, who has been suffering with his health, that I feel like I could puke or weep when I think about greeting him and his family off the ferry.
Time marches on and these long-overdue reunions are the perfect illustration of that fact. It is almost unfathomable that it is so long since I was in the company of these wonderful people, just as it is that almost ten years have passed since Susan and I arrived in Nanaimo to start anew. But, all in all, these are anniversaries and events to celebrate. Life is so short and, as has happened so devastatingly to several friends of ours in recent times, it can change for the worse in an instant, so we must grasp and embrace these happy times with long-lost friends when they come along, as there is no knowing if we will ever see them, or they will see us, ever again.