Beam me up

Having taken my son to a new activity in a bid to increase his diminishing social circle, I am standing on the peripheral while other parents, who clearly know each other, catch up. I look about deciding who might be my victim, who I might wander over to and attempt small talk. In a week where I feel particularly sorry for myself, I find myself thinking… “Why does it have to be like this”….. why can’t someone, just look over and think that woman and her little boy are new… and just come over. This is something I’ve experienced before, to be frank it’s bloody hard making friends as an older mother in a new city. Everyone told me to rely on school. Well, there is a whole other story. I seem to have stumbled over a school roundly lacking in community spirit. There are literally a handful of other parents in the playground who might, and I emphasise ‘might’, notice if I were alive or dead. That’s enough inappropriate comment on school.

Anyhow, no one comes over and I can’t quite work out who to I might approach with a ‘hello I’m Gemma’ and to quite honest I am out of energy. A short and pleasant conversation with the man running it saves things, a bit. I can’t discount that my child was also particularly difficult and contrary and actually, the whole thing was unbelievably hard work for a Thursday.

The WI was Wednesday night, I didn’t go because it was my birthday and while I was back from the celebrations in time (we three went for pizza). It seemed a bit sad to be going alone to the WI on my birthday. They seem a lovely group of women, however I often find myself sitting on my own. I don’t really know anyone, even after regularly turning up for a year. So I decided to sink my energies into that reliable comfort blanket of social media. Choosing to go to bed early with the ipad. Yes, slightly depressing and perhaps defeatist, like I said, I’m out of energy.

At this point in the post, you may have noticed that I am feeling sorry for myself (did I mention that?). We’ve been here 18 months, and are currently in a trough of low pressure. Expect rain and cloud. Apparently, and this is my previous experience, it takes 2 years to feel settled somewhere. We are 6 months away from that magic moment. Despite the tone of this post, I am optimistic that in the next 6 months, things will come together and I will feel settled. Currently, my bit of the universe has the nature of shifting sands. After the storm I am not sure what shape the dunes will be. The odd paradox is that I/we love Bristol. It is a brilliant city. There is nowhere I’d rather live (except Barcelona after my lottery win). Overall the picture is good, it’s just the detail that needs work. Although at 3 am when I’m worrying about my child’s lack of play dates, it feels more than just detail and I question the wisdom of moving him 150 miles from all that he knew that was good and wondering what if…I hadn’t moved him.

I have an ache to be in my own home and not a rented one. The housing market is against me on this. I have an ever increasing collection of anecdotes broadly titled “ridiculous numbers of sealed bids” and “stupid amounts over the asking price”. Buy me a bottle of wine sometime and ask me. I miss the things we have in storage and a home with roots, our roots.

Overwhelmingly, I want to retreat to the safety of solid ground. I want to head North, to sit in a basement kitchen and drink from favorite mugs. I want to park on a familiar sofa while my son bounces on a trampoline in a garden he has known his whole life. I need to solid ground of two places 150 miles away, the people who get me. Who don’t mind when I talk to much, tell too many boring stories and laugh at my own jokes. Who love me for me and they very much love my boy and I, in turn, love them back. The people, I can doorstep. Who give me much needed perspective on the 3 am worries.

Right now, I’m finding relocating really hard. I want to be able to say “beam me up Scottie” and find myself somewhere else for an hour of so of tea drinking and that soul warming “chicken soup” that comes from “my people”. The places where my boy is safe and comfortable. That is what I am seeking. Those are the places where he is wrapped in a special kind of cotton wool. With the people and their children that are his “family” and that make it “all right”.

When we set out on this adventure, it was about sailing away from the safe harbour. I recognise that the sailing would not be plain. Currently, I am a very weary traveller.



  1. Purple Ella

    You can doorstep me. Seriously, you can. I know what you mean though, it is tough coping with the rest of the world when you don’t have ‘your people’ but I’d be honoured to be one of yours and I think your boy is fab u lous. 

  2. Steph

    What a tough week. I really admire you, I’m so risk averse we will probably never do anything like this, a new challenge, new experience – because i’m too scared.

    You deserve credit for being brave and for your outlook that you will get there. Good for you for not being defeatist. My boys have always lived here but the play dates they have are few and far between. They don’t have a massive social circle and we have a few good friends but don’t see them loads.WI never worked for me, or school, but the community local arts centre was how we met people, through volunteering, events and things.

    Being somewhere new must feel like everyone else is having a wonderful time and you’re trying to break into that circle. That’s really hard, I hope you find some more sociable types soon. 

    Can really understand why you need that safe place with those you know so well.  Take care Gemma. I will def come to Bristol one day and the drinks are on me xxxx Happy birthday too xxxx

  3. Debra

    Oh no Gemma this is not good! Have you thought about searching for other bloggers in your area and even trying to arrange a blog meet for local bloggers. Maybe if you find people with at least that in common it could help and they will all have connections. Hope you get the ice broken soon 🙁

  4. Molly

    It will sort itself out. I think the school is key. Plus, if you were back up north you’d be too far from me. I think a summer visit to Bristol for more tea and endless chat is required soon! xxx

  5. Mummy Glitzer

    I get this. I so get it.

    We moved to Bristol 2.5 years ago but have moved to different parts within that time (private rental then homelessness). We have been in our current home for a little under a year and almost the full school year and yet our social dates still consist of family only. Of course I recognise that I am lucky we have family near (they are the reason we moved to Bristol) but they are often away and we don’t see them nearly as much as I would like to.

    I have no suggestions other than to keep positive. Like you there are a handful of parents on the school run who would notice if I vanished but that’s about as far as our acquaintance goes. I am hoping to join the governor body and I hope that helps.

  6. Jen Walshaw

    I resemble this.  Oh I so understand what you are saying.  Even after 7 years here, it is hard.  I only have one real friend and I find the school gate stuff really hard and do not feel as though I fit in.  I have decided and accepted that MadDad is my best friend and I have my BFF round the corner, but that is it.  I have stopped trying to fit in, I have stopped trying to be accepted.

  7. Emma

    This really struck so many chords with me…   Forget the school thing, half the time they are exactly the kind of people I DO NOT want to spend any time with! 😀    It can be difficult.  Here I have made friends through Munich blogging circles, but I can really sympathise with so much xx

  8. Ali

    Oh Gemma it can be hard! The playground can sometimes not be the best or friendliest of places to meet new people. I actually rejoiced when I did not have to take the kids right into school. It was a sigh of relief to be honest!

    I am actually a really people person, can be shy but no-one would really realise that. But the playground and all that fakeness and oh too many women gathered is a nightmare for me! Chatting to the Dad’s was far easier but I did make good friends via the school gates and via my two so it does happen just takes time.

    As you know the end of the Summer it will be a year here for us, have I made any friends, no not really! I chat to people I see regularly on dogs walks, we have lovely neighbours and I joined a ‘Take a Bake’ club which is only monthly so I may make friends there as times goes on. No school gates for me now (hurray!) but with that it does make it harder.

    I need a friend action plan too, we deserve nice friends for sure! Maybe we should come up with one together! xxxx

    P.S. 6 months is Christmas so a house party filled with friends, yeah?

  9. tiddlyompompom

    We have moved cities twice, and I can totally relate to what you are feeling. If I still lived in my home city (Bristol) you’d bet your bottom dollar we’d be eating cake on a regular basis. Hang in there. You’ll find people x

  10. headinbook

    Oh lovely Gemma, I hate to read you sounding so deflated. Putting effort into growing roots is exhausting, all the more so when it feels fruitless and you’re shadowed by the “what ifs”. I hope that the next six months really do start to see things coming together for you and that you feel like you’ve reached port x

  11. Rachel - 3yearsandhome

    Oh Gemma, I think some people are just blinkered and are so involved in their lives and protecting their circles, they don’t spot someone on the periphery who could do with a friendly face and a bloody good hug. I felt similar in Switzerland … try as I might, I was little too different and ultimately, I grew tired of trying, hence the reason we came home. Have a rest, don’t put any pressure on yourself, and then try again when you have a little more energy. Are their any writing or book clubs that you could join? Maybe friends for you would lead to friends for your son?

  12. Jo 2 stars and a swirl

    Ah rubbish week, and I always think when things aren’t great around your birthday it makes the clouds a bit greyer too 🙁
    Makes me so cross school people just being like that, I swear so may people have neither manners or any idea how to even just do small talk. They put their heads down and pretend others are invisable.
    When I did my big move it was hard and I did just keep doing scary things and talk to people. And it took me a long time to find MY world and friends that I felt I chose and they chose me and the clouds parted and now 4 years later I have an amazing set of friends both here and in the internet.
    Really hope that things brighten up over the summer and you find your groove x

  13. Lianne

    Oh Gemma! It’s like I wrote that myself…if I could write that well that is, without any silly mistakes us foreigners tend to make. I hear you, I really really really do. I have regularly rolled my eyes up to the sky in the past 5 years whispering ‘beam me up scotty, I can’t do this anymore’ (still do sometimes actually). I have been the one on the party sideline many times and have not even attempted playgroup infiltration. They were pretty lonely, those 5 years, and I often wondered why we were so impulsive to leave Amsterdam behind…it was for adventurous reasons, and because my husband didn’t want to live in Holland anymore….and because we wanted a bigger house but could not afford one in Amsterdam…and…and…and…I know that, but still…home sweet homesick. 
    Why does it take me such a long time to even start settling down? I probably look a bit arrogant or uninterested because I feel so uncomfortable. I’m not the best socialiser, no small talk skills whatsoever, and a very picky friends-choser too, and I don’t like big gatherings or spoiled kids. I do school drop off only, can’t stand pick up when you have to hang around waiting for the kids to come out of their class rooms and happily chat away about nothing, whilst there are a gazillion shouty kids running around.
    But bit by bit we are collecting a little group of very nice people around us. And actually, nice people come in bulk in Bristol….it is a nice people magnet!
    It is hard, this relocating thing, I wish I knew before we left, although I probably wouldn’t have left home sweet home if I knew.
    I’ll share my nice people with you if you wish and I bake seriously jummy Dutch apple pie should you fancy a bit xxx

  14. Alison Perry

    This sounds really crappy. I feel for you. It’s SO hard to make friends as a grown up, isn’t it? I think Molly is right when she says school will help. You’ll get into a rhythm and hopefully look back and this will feel like a distant memory. Oh also: try to think “what would wit do?” (Do you have a brick wall near where you live?) 😉

  15. older mum in a muddle

    You’ve clearly been having a really crappy week, and I really feel for you. It’s never easy making new friends when you move somewhere completely new…. it really took me a while too, and then I only made a few here and there (I’m not a big crowds kind of person). Incidentally, I know you love coffee shops. Do you have a nice one where you frequent regularly….. are there regulars that go in there that you could possibly meet too. And I like what Rachel says above in terms of writing and book clubs… It’s rubbish feeling isolated – I know what it feels like to feel on the periphery of things. X  

  16. Manneskjur

    Oh Gemma, so sorry to read you are struggling a bit at the moment. I am shocking at making new friends myself so you have my sympathies. But you can’t have my gin. 

  17. Penny A Residence

    Firstly why did you not tell  was your b day when we spoke on Thurs, Happy Birthday!!!!!
    The most solid friendships for me have come from people who I have known from uni, ante natal classes and blogging, not the school playground – such a tough place I think. We’d love to hang out as we have the last few summers, let’s plan an adventure after Camp Bestival? Xxxxx

  18. Actually Mummy...

    Oh Gemma, I think it is so hard to make new friends and connections as we get older, I really do. The easiest times are at school, at university, then when we have our first baby. Because we’re all in the same boat, with something in common that’s out there for everyone to see.

    When you don’t have that, it’s really difficult to insert yourself, plus sometimes you wonder if it should really be that difficult, and if it is, is it really worth the bother?

    Keep going though, you are a lovely woman and somewhere there is a group of people who will count themselves lucky to have your friendship. Fingers crossed it clicks soon x

  19. Mari

    Hello lovely, 
    I know this feeling so well, it’s me through and through and yes I tried so hard, then I doubted myself, I tore myself apart, dissected me and got in a terrible mess, then I concentrated on my family, my extended family and my blogging contacts. Then I felt a bit better.
    Hang on in there and you will find the peace you yearn xx

  20. Emma

    I don’t have many friends, I don’t keep in touch with people from sch or uni.  I don’t do much.  I get this.  I’m hoping that doing the sch runs with Erin will mean I meet new people.  But who knows? When is our holiday????

  21. Sandy Calico

    This was me when we moved to Preston. Everyone at the nursery drop off appeared to have been friends since they were at school and they clearly didn’t need any new friends. I made friends eventually with someone in the same boat as me. I also arranged blogger meet-ups. Now we’ve moved to MK and there is a steady stream of newcomers, I have made friends at the school gate. You’ve reminded me that I should keep an eye out for people who are new. I also made a group of friends via the PTA, although I appreciate that’s not for everyone. I hope you find someone friendly soon. I wish we lived closer x

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