Reaching out

Language changes all the time, and it’s really easy to be caught out by thinking something is a typo or that someone has mispronounced something or had a bit of a Dr Spooner moment, when in fact you’ve just dropped out of what is current, and you’re the one who’s had a mental typo or been behind the curve or changed your name to Spooner. This happened a few days ago when I came across ‘on read’ and had a chuckle at the misprint, only to discover that it means to ignore or deliberately ignore someone.

Another current phrase which irritates me, when it shouldn’t because language is an evolving and dynamic thing, is ‘to reach out’ when someone means ‘to get in touch with’. Apparently it’s been around for a while but it seems to be everywhere now, and everyone is reaching out, or inviting people to reach out and I have an image of ‘The Four Tops’ with a love that will shelter you and see you through. I’m forever talking to the TV or radio and saying ‘no, you don’t want people to reach out, you want them to write/email/text/message you! You don’t want them stretching out their arms, you just want them to contact you!’

Reaching out – over the last little while I have been reaching out to people, I’ve been getting in touch with old friends, with relatives, with others I’ve not seen or spoken to recently, in a way which normally only happens at Christmas or New Year. Almost the first thing we say to each other is ‘how are you? Are you well? Are you coping? Is everything ok with you and the family?’ because of course we are in a very different world.

So who have I been talking to? Among others, two friends from my childhood. One is someone who I’ve known practically all my life as our fathers worked together; we went to the same school although she is a couple of years older, and we both loved swimming and joined the local swimming club. We both had a creative side. Hers was and still is art and mine is and was writing – and for both of us that creative side is a stronger passion now than any other time in our lives. When the laboratory where our dads worked split and moved to East Anglia and to Southwest, our families both went to the Bristol area. We knew each other’s families well and enquired after them; all our parents are now dead but we reminisced about them, and I complimented her on a marvellous drawing she’d recently done of her father, of whom I was very fond. Her mother was a wonderful cook, and getting together at their house on Boxing Day was a family tradition. We spoke about our children, bringing each other up to date on what they were doing, and agreed that when we are able to venture forth again, we will meet up and enjoy each other’s company in person.

The other friend is also someone I’ve known practically all my life; he too was at the same school and in the year above, but it was again through the swimming club that we became friends. There was a whole gang of us from the club who used to socialise as well as train and swim together, competing for our club. I was a swimmer, he was a diver. When we moved away, we kept in touch – although in those days it was by letter and landline – no such thing as mobile phones and emails. He and the gang came and visited and we had a great time driving round Somerset. He went to university in Yorkshire, and the following year I went to the Polytechnic in Manchester so we were able to cross the Pennines and see each other from time to time. He moved south, I stayed in the northwest, but we still managed to see each other now and then. For some reason we haven’t met in person for a few years, but still chat on the phone… except I suddenly realised that we hadn’t spoken to each other for quite a while. I realised this when he reached out to me the other day – I mean he got in touch – he telephoned me! We caught up with our news, our families, our shared friends, and laughed a great deal about our adventures when we were young. He lives about two hours away, so when we can, we’re going to meet up and relive our youths!

Although things are strange and in some ways difficult, we can cope if we remember the important things, like dear old friends

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