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Donkin's World: Wish You Were Here

"But how many people do we truly know? Not that many, I'd suggest. Most friendships, I'd guess, are people we get to know as school or college chums, colleagues, friends associated with a time or place in our lives and who then become distant like a treasured memory. Those connections are strong enough to revive later,'' muses Richard Donkin.

I had a postcard from Annie this morning. Except it wasn't a postcard. It was a blip that probably arrived some time in the night. Except it didn't arrive, it's just there, wherever there is.

But there's much more information in Annie's card than any I received from aunties or uncles in Skegness or Blackpool. Their cards would generally have room for the message: "Having a lovely time, weather awful, wish you were here!" Sometime's you'd have seen the senders back home before the card arrived, in which case you'd know its contents anyway. But you'd still enjoy the card because it was saying that they were thinking about you and had made the effort to get in touch. That's still important in postcard and letter writing. It is about making the effort.

Another difference is that I've never met Annie and may never meet her. Like many people I sort of know, I've only met her through the internet, yet we exchange snippets about ourselves every day that are quite public. That's another thing about Annie's "card". You can read it too. http://www.blipfoto.com/entry/2422970

And if you read her other blips you can learn about her family, that she lives in New Lanark, has some involvement with Robert Owen's historic mill in the town, and has a very skilled husband who likes to restore old cars and boats.

The holiday used to be a thing you heard about in a sentence or two before you met up with the postcard senders who would be very good friends or close relatives. Sooner or later you'd hear all about it in magnificent embellished detail and if it was in that place called "abroad" you might have to suffer a slide show. Today we can publish our own holiday books, for goodness sake!

Annie's in Vietnam (but you know that now, of course) and she's published notes and photographs online since she got there. I did the same this year in visits to Porto, Monaco and Genoa (that are not quite as abroad as they used to be).

Much has been said and written, often disparagingly, about the faceless Facebook world of tweets and blips: how terms such as "friends" have been watered down in online communities where some people barely know each other.

But how many people do we truly know? Not that many, I'd suggest. Most friendships, I'd guess, are people we get to know as school or college chums, colleagues, friends associated with a time or place in our lives and who then become distant like a treasured memory. Those connections are strong enough to revive later.

I rarely see Simon, the best man at my wedding (this is his wedding - second one http://dickdonkin.smugmug.com/Friends/Dormand-wedding-2006/2857298_pWbSw3#!i=153300608&k=pwuXu), but when we do meet, the conversation just picks up from where we left it since we know each other's back stories, or, at least, our early back stories, filling in the other bits sometimes rather sketchily over the years.

Many of these names - I'm sure it's the same for you if you use Facebook - are not listed among my Facebook friends. Some, but not all, may be connected to me through LinkedIn. But others are names in an address or phone book. One day there will be lines through some of those names, mine too as we're reduced to pixellated images and stories (it used to be dust).

The blippers are something else. Only a couple of them are Facebook friends. And yet I guess I see more of the lives these daily posting photographers (to blip in this context is to post a photograph each day on Blipfoto.com) than I do of many much closer friends. Try it, but be warned, it's like trying your first cigarette - you could get hooked.

The point I'm making here, if I have a point to make (and I'm not sure I do), is that friendship takes many forms. The virtual friend is not unlike the French pen friend I had as a teenager. I'm trying to remember her name. Edwige Morvan comes to mind (note to self: must do a Facebook search). But less effort is involved. Trying to read and write letters in French was a real effort, I can tell you!

I look back to those teenage times spent with Simon and the others - you know who you are - in tents on cliff tops at Whitby or by Lake District tarns and it fills me with a warm glow. I guess that's why I tried to recall those days on my 50th birthday. Few things beat chewing the fat with old friends. But those bits of gristle in blips from Annie and the others - you know who you are - are welcome too. We're farther spread and it's a different kind of friendship, but it's friendship all the same and that has to be a good thing.

So to all my old and new friends, whatever the context, whatever the background, on a bleak October day, all I can say is: wish you were here!

**

Links:

http://dickdonkin.smugmug.com/Boats/Boat-shows/25442913_gkLPQb#!i=2100563760&k=DpCr6JQ

http://dickdonkin.smugmug.com/Travel/Porto-July-2012/24062274_VQ7VF2#!i=1954070543&k=pCjWTSp

http://dickdonkin.smugmug.com/Travel/Genoa/25778153_5rJdP7#!i=2134212019&k=TqS7Gmz

http://dickdonkin.smugmug.com/Friends/Camp-Dick-June-2007/3052877_BnC9Pz#!i=166919061&k=Pbq3n

http://www.blipfoto.com/entry/2399984

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