I managed to make it to L’s funeral! In the end it was a bit of a nightmare as I was given less than 48 hours’ notice and needed to 1) get the day off work; 2) get down to the where the funeral was being held (just under 5 hours away); and 3) find somewhere to stay at the last minute.
I think I have seen the best of people and the worst of people in just a few days. Some people were absolutely incredible and rallied round to help. Firstly my friends V&B agreed to put me up at theirs the night before the funeral, even though they are crazily busy and I turned up at some God-awful hour in the night. They wouldn’t accept my thanks or apologies and all they cared about was whether I was ok and whether I needed anything. Secondly, L’s family (who had MUCH more pressing things on their minds) kept texting me to see if there was anything I needed and, without me asking, arranged for one of L’s sister’s friends to drive me backwards and forwards on the day of the funeral. I was so touched by these small acts of kindness and am so grateful for everyone that day who made things a little bit easier. I would always have found a way to get there, but the train tickets were already extortionate (in the UK rail fare is absolutely ridiculous at the best of times, but if you book at the last moment it’s eye-watering) so it would have been incredibly stressful to have to pay an extra £150-£175 on top of that to stay in a hotel and get taxis backwards and forwards.
Sadly, I also saw the worst of people. Obviously there was everything that happened at work. I’m not even going to re-visit this as my anger hasn’t waned at all, but I stuck two fingers up at them and went to the funeral. There was also the fact that Londoners are a***holes.
Ok, ok, so that’s being completely melodramatic and over the top and is not remotely true for the majority of Londoners. I’m angry though so allow me a little hysteria.
The “London Thing” has bothered me for quite a while. I worked in London for many years and completely get the buzz and how amazing the place is for much of the time. I have many happy memories from when I lived there (I mean, I obtained a husband from my time there!) and I love going back and experiencing this atmosphere which you just don’t get anywhere else in the UK. It is, without doubt, the most exciting city in the UK.
But London is just one (admittedly large) city quite far south in England. While it’s brilliant in many ways, it has plenty of faults and there is a lot which it doesn’t have which you miss out on by never leaving London. It’s a 10 hour drive and almost 600 miles to Inverness, the most “northern” major city in the UK. There is a hell of a lot going on between those two points, yet all of this gets written off as “second rate” because it’s not happening in the capital.
What bothers me most is Londoners’ (as a very sweeping generalisation) total reluctance to leave the capital and visit other places. Many actually recoil in horror if you even suggest a weekend away from London.
I first experienced it when I got married. We saved and saved and saved for two years to pay for our wedding, including paying for guests to have a nice meal and plenty of alcohol and little gifts. We made a lot of sacrifices over those two years to pay for our wedding and it certainly wasn’t something that was just handed to us on a plate. The wedding was in the North East and I invited many of my London friends to the wedding. They all appeared to have a brilliant time and got more than a little merry on the booze we had provided. Anyway, as soon as the wedding was over and I was back in London a number of my “friends” complained about how far away the wedding had been, what a hassle it had been to get there and back and how much it had cost them.
Not only is this incredibly rude, but it is also ridiculous. From central London it takes between 3-4 hours, depending on which train you get, to get to the place where we had our wedding. There’s no changing trains; it’s a straight line through. Additionally, they had all known the date of the wedding for months beforehand so if they had booked their tickets a few months, or even weeks, in advance then the tickets really wouldn’t have cost that much. In any event, the money they ended up spending, all in, will not have been an awful lot more than we spent on them being there (and we had to pay that x 120!). Although I appreciate it is a long way there and back, I was doing this journey every other weekend as BT was living up there with work and I was in London.
Since then BT and I have experienced this time and time again since moving away from London. Friends will ask to see us, so we’ll make arrangements to come to London. As the London property market is insane, very few of our friends have spare rooms, so this almost always means paying for a hotel as well as travel. We wouldn’t begrudge this in order to see our friends, but with very few exceptions, NONE of them have been to visit us in the three years we have lived in the North East. We ask and ask, yet always get told “sorry we don’t really have the time to go that far…” (and we do?) or “we can’t afford it..” (and we can? It’s cheaper for you to come up to us as we have a room for you! Also you earn double my salary for doing exacting the same job as me) or “it’s a bit too inconvenient…” (likewise) and it’s always, ALWAYS followed by “let us know when you’re next in London”.
So basically what I have learned about many people that I had thought were my friends, and who I have made such an effort to keep in touch with over the years, is that they’re happy to see me and appear to like me, but they’ll only see me of it’s convenient for them and they don’t need to spend any money or exert any effort. Which has made me feel very shit for a very long time and completely worthless. (On a separate note, I think I need to toughen up and stop making an effort with many of these people and start making new friends. But aged 31 that’s very scary and I don’t even know where to begin. Anyway, I digress from my rant…)
So what’s the point of this big self-indulgent rant? Well, in making arrangements (on less the 48 hours’ notice) to get from the other side of the country to L’s funeral, I texted a lot of our mutual friends to make sure that they were all going. I wanted to make sure that she was getting a proper send off and that everyone that she cared about would be there, where possible. Unbelievably, several of our friends, who all live in London, said that they wouldn’t be going as it was the wrong side of London and was too inconvenient to get to. ARE YOU F*CKING KIDDING ME? I can do a full day at work and travel through the night from the other side of the country, negotiate the tube with 20 minutes to make my connection to the next train (while carrying a suitcase and lots of pregnancy blubber) get one of the last trains down to the place where V&B live…but you can’t travel for 1 hour – 1 hour 30 mins across London because it’s “too inconvenient”? Unbelievable. It really makes me wonder what goes through people’s heads. Are they THAT self-indulgent that they’ll only consider how this impacts them, rather than the fact that a wonderful, kind-hearted, caring friend has lost her life? A friend, I would add, who would have made the journey for their funeral.
I have found myself a bit all over the place the past few days. Sometimes I feel really positive and I think about how lucky I am to be alive and to still have the chance to shape my life and do the things I want to do and be the person I want to be. I am grateful that there are people out there who can be entirely unselfish and rally round when the sh*t hits the fan. Other times I feel incredibly sad and lonely and feel that, despite trying so hard to be “nice” and to be a “good friend” to those in my life, I don’t really have many genuine friends. If I die (or more accurately, when I die) I would like to be buried up in the North near where my family and BT live. It makes me a little bit sad that many people won’t come to my funeral because it will almost certainly be “too inconvenient” to get to.
It reminds me of the following meme, which did the rounds on twitter a few months ago. It certainly appeals to my dark sense of humour 🙂