One of my best friends from the UK should be landing in Vancouver in a couple of minutes, with her lovely hubby and adorable two year old son! They'll be waiting for me at home when I've finished work for the day, and nine days of fun and catching up lie ahead.
I'm always super excited to see my old pals. I have a great group of friends and acquaintances here in Vancouver, and I love them dearly. However, the longest any of them have known me is eight years, and there's just something very different about being with a friend who's known you since you were a young and foolish teenager.
I really don't think I've changed that much in the eight years since I moved to Vancouver (except that I've become more boring and responsible). However, the friend who's arriving today has known me for seven years before that, and that's an entirely different story!
We met on our first day at University in Newcastle, when I was 18 and my friend was 17. We were neighbours in our hall of residence, and despite the fact that my friend is Scottish and I was wearing an England rugby shirt when we first met, we quickly became close friends, along with several other girls on our corridor. At the end of our first year we all moved into a house off campus, which we shared for another two years. When I moved to Glasgow for my PhD this friend stayed on in Newcastle, while most of our other friends scattered around the country. But we all stayed in touch, with lots of phone calls, and visits that now continue without me (this makes me sad). We all get together for weddings though, and it's always like we've never been apart.
I arrived at University painfully shy, having had a rough time at high school. My parents had driven me to Newcastle on my first day, and they literally had to push me out of my room and into the corridor when we heard voices out there as everyone started to meet for the first time! But I really came out of my shell in the next couple of years*, and my friend was there for all of that. The whole group of us spent literally every day together for three years; we lived, cooked, ate, studied, and partied as a group. We got to know each other's families and high school friends. We've cried on each other's shoulders, literally and figuratively. We were there for each other's first serious relationships, and first real heartbreaks. We helped each other learn to cook, handle the bills and the chores, and master (?) other aspects of being grown-ups. We've provided tea, food, and moral support during the stressful days of studying for exams. We've taken care of each other and have each helped the other one to get home on those crazy drunken nights that we're too old and boring for these days!
This friend has visited Vancouver before. She came with another of our old roomies, in my first year here, before any of us had met our husbands. We had an absolute blast and spent two weeks partying our way around Vancouver and Whistler. Her house is one of my regular stops when I go home for a visit, and her husband and Mr E Man get on really well together. I can't wait to spend a week being a tour guide, and introducing everyone to my new friends.
There is a wee bit of a cunning plan afoot, too... my friend's husband is really nervous about visiting Vancouver, and has actually resisted attempts to get him over here in the past. He's heard so many great things about the city that he thinks he's going to be seized with an overwhelming urge to move here; the problem with this is that his mother would be devastated to be separated from her only grandson, and he is genuinely worried about the inner conflict that would ensue!
But hey, maybe we can make a good enough case that he can persuade his Mum to move over too!
Wish me luck... (and also the cats, who are going to be totally freaked out by having a toddler in the house).
ETA: I found a photo of the four of us from that shared house who are the closest friends.
This photo was taken in July 2006, at the wedding of the friend who I get to see in just one more hour! The husband and kids belong to my "hair twin", second from left. We have the same first and middle names, and while I am a scientist in a family full of people with languages degrees, she was the only one in her family of scientists and physicians to study languages! I swear we were swapped at birth.
*My high school friends agree that I'm the person who's changed the most since those days!