As in "ha-ha" or...?

This week I went for a coffee with an old school friend. The last time we saw each other would have been fifteen years ago, I reckon. I can’t say we’ve been in touch all this time: throughout my school career I deemed her my best friend, however once we left school we fell out of contact entirely. Occasionally, a nugget of information would be passed via the “maternal network” – my mother would get news and gossip via a work colleague, who was in turn an acquaintance of my friend’s mother- but information was little more than sketchy. There was one piece of news that rattled through like freight train: she had become a Buddhist nun.

Anyhow. We met up last week in a favourite Edinburgh coffee house (that sells dreadful cake -and pretty dreadful coffee too – but the ambience is great!) and caught up on the past fifteen years. Apart from being older, more confident and very composed, she was exactly as I remembered her – funny, disarming, slightly offbeat, something of an iconoclast and very compassionate. We chatted comfortably for a couple of hours. I had brought a photo-album from when we were at school and we were sanguine about the fashion horrors that lurked within its pages (well, it was the late 80s…) and filled each other in on the occupations and whereabouts of some of our classmates.

I was curious, not so much as to how or why she had become a Buddhist nun, but how she could leave it behind. Her explanation made perfect sense and I was glad that I had asked (it had been worrying me for years: I had feared some kind of crisis had arisen, but in fact there had been no problem- it was just that she had entered the nunnery for a fixed period and when her time had come to leave, she felt happy to do so) She was curious as to how and when I came out, although not in the least surprised that I had: she was more surprised that I was in a “proper grown-up relationship” – something which surprises me, constantly - and that we both were now non-smoking, non-drinking, drug-free and “responsible” professionals. When we were younger, we each viewed the other as being the wilder and more daring one: the reality was perhaps that I really was the more out of control. I certainly drank more, did more and risked more - I did it all more furtively, however, and it is the furtiveness that is now the hardest habit to break.

As we were leaving, I remembered something from when we were fourth or fifth years, desperately trying to keep ourselves amused during our tedious French lessons with a teacher who rejoiced in the nicknames, “Miss Marple”, “Trout”, or more starkly, “Death”. With another couple of friends, we had formed a gang -although a shower or clump would be a more appropriate term - and in self-deprecatingly ironic form, had named ourselves the “CND-Hippy-Save-the-Whale-Lesbian-Nuns” (to be said in our best Naaaaaaridge accents) – thus defusing some of the more common insults hurled our way (As I said, it was the late 80s and each of these terms were considered insulting!). I realised, with some degree of amusement, each of our friends had adopted one or more of these insult terms as a lifestyle: one of our friends was doing conservation work, another had become a wild-life photographer, we had all joined CND at one point or another and, of course, I was definitely a lesbian- she had most definitely been a nun. Funny how our jokes sometimes become real. Well, sort of funny, anyway.


Anonymous said...

That's really quite...odd, how things turned out.
I always wanted to meet a nun and get her unique perspective on things.
Aaah well. Next life, perhaps.