Sunday, 24 August 2008

My 16-year-old daughter eventually goes to London - to stay with precious old friends

It was 14 months in the savings and about six months in the planning, but last week I finally waved my ‘baby’ (all almost-6-foot of her) through the gates at Cape Town International on her way to England. Of course I wept copiously all the way home after I’d seen her off at the airport (what if she were kidnapped and sold into the slave trade on her stopover in Dubai?) but needless to say she arrived safe and sound at Heathrow, if a little ‘greasy’ (her description), pissed off (because she’d sat on a crowded flight between two businessmen who ‘farted all the way’) and disillusioned with international travel (her baggage had, predictably, not made it to London along with her).

Coincidentally, this week, my trusty old Canon printer finally gave up the ghost and I, pressured by deadlines, rushed out to buy a new one. I was pleasantly surprised to find that a scanner/copier/printer costs, now, about what my old printer cost me when I bought it 10 years ago, so I am now the owner of a mini-bizhub, and having quite a lot of fun with it.

One of the first things I did with my new purchase was scan and email pics taken over 20 years ago to old friends living abroad who’d asked me for these when trawling through my scrapbooks on various visits to my little country hovel during the last couple of years. And I had to have a giggle at what I’d sent my daughter to…

Here are my good friends Kevin and Ruth, snapped in the squat we lived in in inner-city Cape Town in 1989, when we were in our late teens/early twenties. Kevin now owns properties in various cities around the world, is an in-demand IT specialist, is married to the woman of his dreams, and drives (as if all the rest weren’t enough) a canary-yellow Porsche; he’s currently resident in Oz but that’s not to say he’s going to stay there. I took this pic (below) of him and his wife in January this year, sharing a coupla glasses of wine on my verandah.

Ruth (in whose tender loving care my daughter is at this very minute) morphed with astonishing style from a cross-dressing chameleon-haired wild girl into this elegant working lady-of-the-manor, now mother of one and wife to a gorgeous Frenchman an indecent number of years her junior, living the sophisticated high life on a sprawling Surrey estate.

Here’s another shot, of my friend Michele and (I can hardly believe it) me, taken over 20 years ago in the same squat (which my then-boyfriend refused to spend time in because, he said, 'hedonism seeped from its walls'). Michele, then a fan of food and the grand vizier of unsuitable relationships, is now a mom of three, still married to the delicious man she fell in love with almost 20 years ago, an academic editor and forging a successful life in a foreign country. My daughter spent a few happy, busy days with her last week.

As for me – well! That bright-white hairstyle (not to mention the glistery blue shirt) was one of my lesser indulgences in those days (I once had a chessboard dyed into the back of my head). But the two glasses, the cigarette and the ‘listen to me now - and make it snappy!’ expression haven’t changed much. And I have to wonder: if I weren’t me, would I send my precious 16-year-old daughter to me to look after?? (This pic, above, is of Michele and me in 2006 - my, how sensible I've become!)

I love the notion that I sent my daughter off, like a marble shot out of a rubber band, into a foreign country, trusting my dear old wild friends to make sure she's fed, watered, entertained and cosseted. And of course that’s exactly what they’ve done (they, and my Aunt Janet in Manchester – she of Bobby the Spider fame, for regular readers of this blog – and Brigitte and John in Richmond, who've known me since I was a toddler and my kids from day dot).

It’s just so amazingly, stupendously wonderful to have precious, irreplaceable friends who've known you since you were young and stupid - and who, no matter where they've been in the universe and what's happened in their lives, have never lost touch with you. And who - who would've thought it?! - so many years on, you can send your precious, irreplaceable child to, and know they will be creative and caring to. My dear, dear old friends: I salute you!

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