The end of summer means back to normality. Having had a very busy August I am definitely looking forward to getting back into a routine. However, in the military world, summer often means a lot of change and in Shrivenham I think it is even more so. Most people are here for a year maximum so it has been a real changing of the guard. Before we went on holiday we were the only occupied house in our street, we came back 10 days later and it was pretty much back up to full capacity. Lots of new families from all over the world, which is great but it makes it all a bit strange for a while.
At the beginning of summer I felt really settled and had a lovely group of friends to meet up with in the park or the pub, but a lot of them have now left and it feels like I am back to square one.
So how do you make friends? This is possibly the worst bit about army life for me. I am a really sociable person and love going out with friends, but the initial getting to know people is totally out of my comfort zone. I find it difficult initiating conversation with strangers and particularly people in a group when I’m on my own. I can stand in a playpark next to another parent, willing myself to speak and can’t think of anything to say. My head is screaming ‘they are probably doing exactly the same thing, just say something, anything!’, but it will take me to the point they are just about to leave or one of my children has fallen off the swing to find the ability to talk.
Even with our new neighbours I find it hard. I surreptitiously loiter outside our house, using the girls as my cover, hoping somebody might pop out of their house, so I can ‘bump into them’. I am just not brave enough to go up to the door and knock on it. I worry that might seem a little aggressive; I could catch someone in their PJs or mid-child meltdown. But what is the etiquette? And how long have you got before the window closes and it’s just too awkward to say welcome and you have to accept that you are going to nod and smile at each other for the rest of the year?
This year I am going to be braver and initiate the conversation with more people. Everyone is in the same boat after all. It feels a bit like Freshers week at university (minus the copious amounts of dodgy alcoholic concoctions!) where everyone you pass smiles at you and looks a bit lost. It wouldn’t take much to say hello or can I help. I know I really appreciate it when someone does it to me.
So if you see an awkward lady trying to approach you in the park, don’t be afraid I’m just looking for someone to drink wine with.