Friendships in Edinburgh 15.07.17
Saturday evening, and outside a band is playing. It's July and the festivals are coming back to Edinburgh; already, the park at the centre of George Square has been taken over with fences and security and people in red coats whose purpose is mysterious. Just over two weeks from now, this city will become the largest temporary site of shows in the world, its narrow pavements bursting with the slow and the frustrated. I know that some pedestrians will slow right down to text urgent messages, or vape their factory smoke. I already have my outside-lane strategy: always walk against the traffic, to see what's coming up. Unless it's a bus, skip onto the road, into a lonely slipstream, and pass those crowds right by. I like to think I'm a professional pedestrian these days, Edinburgh has trained me well in this regard.
I am so preoccupied these days by work that I never stop to think escapist fantasies, or exaggerate sad thoughts and take them to some harrowing conclusion. Instead, I am absorbed by lesson preparation, which has taken over my free time. I crash onto my bed after midnight (after make-up removal, obviously), and get up again at six. Then Saturday morning comes, and Gina is a happy bunny. And sleeps a little more. It's about the simple pleasures at this point: that sweet feeling of lying back in bed, seven am, eight am. The day is mine. I did some housework today . . . I never do housework usually, unless I'm expecting people, which is hardly ever.
And something else: at the language school where I teach, I have a friend among the staff of pleasant teachers, she's similar in age to me, I'd forgotten what it was like to have for companionship someone who isn't in their twenties. That's one of the truly dispiriting things about being me at 42. Everyone else in their forties has settled down to a career, a marriage and/or kids. So crossing paths again at work with someone of my age is nice, I know it shouldn't make a difference but-Sometimes you do notice how your PhD peers are enjoying private conversations beyond the study room, confiding, sharing. It's not your world, it's theirs. Or you do get included from time to time, and hear how a twenty-something's life is over, because they don't have a boy/girlfriend. What, as a single forty-something, does one say sympathetically to such outpourings? Or more often you sit alone, as I do now, on a Saturday night, typing up a diary posting, and it is only you who's there, because all my twenty-something peers are off in groups, confiding. Sharing. It's okay, because at 42, the disconnect is requited, it's not a cause for bitterness, but it does leave you feeling lonely sometimes. But whatever. Two more years and I will have a wonderful, life-affirming university job waiting for me, with forty-something peers who become my friends. At least, that is the plan. Or is it just one more escapist fantasy?