If old acquaintances are brought to mind, give them a call…

It’s reassuring to think of old schoolfriends, colleagues, dates – and know we are still social creatures

I have an Auld Lang Syne earworm, a hangover from a New Year I didn’t even celebrate. I usually eschew the Hootenanny and head to bed at 10.30, shove in earplugs and wait for the firework-loathing dog to slink in, poke his bony elbows into my kidneys and breathe his foul kipper breath over my face. My signature New Year cocktail is three parts relief to two of fomo with a smugness garnish as I wake early and contemplate stripping the house of every glittering shred of festivity, a prospect somehow as appealing as decorating it a few weeks previously. (I revert to puritanical zealot instantly after New Year, grimly relishing the dark months of fingerless gloves and gruel, while my French husband tries in vain to make his decadent, continental epiphany happen, with its greasy wodge of almond galette, filling-menacing charm, and paper crown.) Even so, something about that “old acquaintance” part is stuck in my head, displacing my usual involuntary theme tune (Kung Fu Fighting – you’re welcome).

I think a lot about “old acquaintance” at the moment. Partly, it’s because returning to my home town three years ago means I live in a nostalgia minefield, everywhere liable to detonate a tiny, usually benign, charge of emotion. The waiter from the pizzeria we went to when my mother couldn’t face cooking is still waitering a few hundred yards away; my biology teacher is teaching my son biology; my schoolfriends’ parents still live in the same streets. At choir practice a woman I did not recognise came over with a card with a cat on. “Do you recognise this cat?” she asked. I didn’t, but it was a birthday card addressed to me, with a 1980s postmark. It had, she said, been kicking around her house for decades, and she had no idea why. I would have run a mile from that feeling of being held in a web of connectedness even a decade ago, but now it’s comforting to be seen and known.

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