The last four days have been one great big long round of goodbyes.
On Thursday I had my last day at work. I’ve worked at the local public library for just over four years, one and a half days a week. It’s been one of my favourite jobs ever; close to home so no horrid commute to work, interesting and varied work, lovely work colleagues, a wide variety of different people coming in to borrow books, find information, use the computers and so on. It’s had great perks too – no more library fines, free reservations of books (although frankly 50p to reserve a book and get it sent from any library in the county to your local one for you to collect is a real bargain anyway), a lovely working environment that Dragon and Star have spent lots of time in too and the kind of role where my personal stamp has been welcomed and appreciated. I have helped run events, design and deliver a kids book group programme and co-run a reading group alongside all my regular duties.
So leaving all that behind was tear jerking, particularly the lovely colleagues. 13 current and ex-colleagues (although I guess all of them are now ex-colleagues!) joined me for a meal out where I seat-hopped to spend time chatting to all of them, drank far too much until I was even louder and more enthusiastic about how fond of them I all was than usual (and I’m known for being loud and enthusiastic even when sober in broad daylight! A library was not a natural environment for me really!). I was presented with thoughtful gifts, lovely words and touching sentiments. I should probably apologise to the staff at the pub for keeping them late at work, the neighbours of my work colleagues who were dropped off before me where I insisted on getting out of the car for sentimental kerbside goodbyes with everybody and the final two friends both of who I dripped over as I got emotional. I hope they are reading this and know how much I’ve loved working with them all, how every single one of them means something special to me and they have become friends rather than colleagues.
On Friday it was Ady’s turn. He has been in his job for nearly seven years and similarly ‘workmates’ have turned into ‘mates’. He was taken out for breakfast, presented with cards, many gifts and then brought home (he was stranded as of course he drove his company car in to work but had to leave it there!). In just the same way Ady will terribly miss his friends at work, the camaraderie and laughs and whilst I don’t think he’ll miss the 9-5 he will certainly miss the people who kept him company during it.
Saturday was our ‘Bye Then Party’, our chance to gather both local friends and our friends from around the country for a big send off. We are very lucky to be part of a group of amazing Home Educating families who met online several years ago and have become almost an extended family to us. Our children are growing up with each other as peers, friends, part of a gang and us adults are in daily online contact with each other thanks to email, forums and social network sites. We holiday together several times a year, meet up at parties and celebrations and share the highs and lows of each others lives. It is this feeling of community and brief periods of living, cooking and sharing together that have inspired us to embark on a year of spending time living with host families while WWOOFing, learning from others, pooling resources and ideas and finding ways of working as a group.
The party was a true celebration of our adventure and I hope summed us up as a family and part of a group of friends. We obviously provided the reason for the party, hired a hall, invited people to come and then stood there in an empty hall with empty tables, four people, a cake and about a hundred inspirational quotes I’d written on different coloured paper. A couple of hours later the room was heaving; there were children playing together in the outside area, many of them with children they’d never met before. The table was laden with food and drink made, baked and bought by friends, music was playing, people were dancing, laughing, chatting and the room was alive. We were utterly overwhelmed with the thoughtful, generous and fabulous gifts people had brought, the well-wishes, hugs, occassional tears and cheerleading.
A mammoth effort turned the hall from a trashed party venue to a clean and tidy place once more and then a large group came home with us to help finish up the food and drink and spend the evening with us. Today a smaller group of us went to the local beach for a crazy hour of playing chase the waves until every child (and a couple of the adults) were soaked with sea water, we came home for hot chocolate and cake and finally the last guests left and it’s just the four of us once more.
People have said some very wondering things to us in the last few weeks; told us the sort of lovely things you would like to think people think of you but so very rarely hear. We have been told we are brave, courageous, inspirational, adventurous…I’d love to think this is true and hope we prove deserving of their faith and belief in us. I know that it is the support, enthusiasm and love of friends that has made us brave, given us courage, been our inspiration and fed our thirst for adventure. It is the knowledge that so many people are indeed ‘wandering with us in spirit’ that means we think we can do this.
So many fantastic stories start with a page thanking everyone who made the telling of the story possible. So we’d like to start our story now as we count down the sleeps left in our house (three!) by thanking the amazing supporting cast of friends who might not fit in the van with us but are definitely along for the ride.