Friday, 18 December 2015

Just a girl I used to know - part 3 (she "dumped me")

I have known a number of girls called Caroline. Each time a Caroline has come into my life it hasn't turned out well either for me or for her.

Starting with the most recent - Caroline was the vicar at a church I used to visit (fairly irregularly). When I first joined her congregation she made me feel welcome, partly because I was by far the youngest adult member of her "flock" and partly because, just as I was,  she was married with a pre-school child. Gradually though I noticed a certain "chill" developing between us - I was slowly but certainly marginalised in those aspects of church life that I most enjoyed. I tried hard to stay friendly and co-operative but it wasn't to be. I came to dread seeing her and so I stopped going to "her" church and I haven't seen her to speak to in a couple of months.

The next Caroline was a lady in her 40s who had moved to a rented house a few doors away from where I live. Her husband had moved to the town when he took up a promoted post locally and she was feeling quite lonely. We used to meet up for coffee and a chat on a Saturday (her husband used to work Saturdays) but then she started making excuses that gradually got stranger and less believable. I took the hint and although we are polite to each other - as I hope I would be to any neighbour - there is no trace of friendship left. Perhaps we just didn't have enough in common?

The third Caroline was a girl I knew at school. She was one of the "cool kids" and she decided when we were both in year 11 that it would be trendy to become a lesbian. So she did, or at least in her mind she did. Briefly Ella and I were admitted to her inner circle but the instant she moved on her next craze we were dumped as being bad for her image. This Caroline was, and still is by all accounts, a typical "alpha female". She has a fairly high profile in the town but she is almost universally disliked and mistrusted by everybody I know.

Before you ask - yes I do seem to have a problem maintaining friendships with normal, mainstream people. Please feel free to comment why this might be the case!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Fostered friends we never see

One of the many advantages of new technology is that you can stay in touch with people who have moved to the other side of the world just as easily as if they were living in the next town. Email addresses travel with you so it no longer matters if your physical address changes quite often.

Ella and I have an old-fashioned address book, so old in fact that it is made from paper rather than just being electronic. Some of our longest running friends have multiple addresses - up to 20 in some cases - but their email addresses remain unchanged. That makes things so much simpler!

There are lots of people I feel I know quite well despite having either not seen them for years or in some cases never having met them face-to-face.

BT Overdrive went to the same school as Ella and I. She was fostered but as she wasn’t in the same year group as us we never got to know her during our school days. We met her for the first time at a school reunion some years after we had both left and the similarities in our upbringing came up in conversation over tea and cake. She is currently working in South Africa as a nanny. Her best friend,  fellow subscriber and very gifted author Joined Up Writing was fostered in Port Elizabeth and is also working a nanny. South Africa is somewhere that is high on our list of places we would like to visit so it would be nice to think we will see BT Overdrive again one day.  

Emma R was a key-note speaker at a conference that Ella and I both attended. Although we have only met her this one time we exchange experiences via email every few months and she is very much on our "active friends" list. She is currently working in Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada) for a tour company. 

Pixie and Dixie are two friends of mine from university. They have seen more and done more than any couple of their age I have ever met or heard about. From the first time we met they seem to have done almost everything together. Currently they are working in Malta, despite the financial problems there. They hope to get married in 2016 and promised me that it would happen in the UK so we could all attend without bankrupting ourselves. 

Last, but not least, of my long-distance friends there is Stars and Stripes who lives in the USA with her foster Dad. She is another old-girl of my former school. Her foster parents divorced just as she was timing out with them but despite this she moved with him (ex US military) to live in Denver and then onto Phoenix (Scottsdale) with him and his new wife. Stars and Stripes is attending a community college as a mature student with a view to going to university.

Of course there are some former friends who have died (Boy who shall not be named) or have fallen out of touch with us (Jam Tart, Kitty B and Reigning Monarch), usually when events in their own lives conspired to rather overwhelm them, but they are never far from our thoughts.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Care Kids and friendship groups

Just a girl I used to know - part 2 (I broke contact)

On a handful of occasions Ella and I had to make the hard decision to expel somebody from our lives. The most memorable of these was Straightlaced who wanted to share and receive far too much personal information far too soon after becoming our friend. She was supposed to a girl but I was always rather suspicious that she was actually a he and that her/his entire life story, based around living in fear of abusive and aggressive foster parents, was a total fantasy. She/he had two sock puppets - who posted from the same IP address!! - both of whom would effusively vouch for her/him. It is fair to say that Straightlaced didn’t accept my decision calmly and she/he wrote a long moaning email to me – which I ignored. 

The Lara G situation was more complicated and I am not entirely sure that Ella and I handled it correctly.  She had been writing a fostering themed blog that we had enjoyed reading. Real life then got in the way and she removed it telling the world that she was hoping to restart it, "…. maybe when I finish my PhD in 3-4 years", but as we all know 3-4 years is a very long time. We felt at that time that Lara was a very positive role model and that it would be a real shame if she vanished from the "former children in care" scene.  

Then things went wrong. Lara hadn’t given us the slightest indication of unhappiness when we were in contact in late 2012. So it came as a nasty surprise when we discovered that for several months prior to mid-2013 some very nasty material she had written about Ella and I was freely available on her website. Ella and I would have loved to have held her up as an example of what a foster child can achieve but nobody who acted like she did deserved our respect or support! 

Looking back Lara’s “lows” as a foster child were uncharacteristically, some might say implausibly, low while her “highs” were almost unprecedentedly high. The overall effect was to induce some major scepticism in several of our friendship group. Quite recently I did have a quick look to see if she was still around and rather to my surprise she was. So perhaps there was more truth to her life-story than I originally thought? 

Finally there was Denise. She and I lived 3 doors apart for 2 of the 3 years I was at university. We did some modules together so I got to know her quite well. Denise was very needy - there was always some crisis in her life that she expected her friends to help her sort out. These were never financial but were usually administrative or emotional. The problem with Denise was she was far more willing to accept help or seek help than to offer help and it was that reason that I went to considerable trouble to avoid working with her in group science projects. I had a premonition that she would expect the rest of the team to do the work: then she would free-load off them. From what I heard that was exactly what happened. We parted company at the end of the 3rd year - we had a cup of coffee in the canteen while we said all the meaningless things people say at the end of a long journey, then she walked away promising to keep in touch. She didn't and so I never got round to chasing her up.