Between Facebook and the fact that I am all too Googleable these days, I’ve spent both real and virtual time this week with people who, 6 months ago, I would have put money on never seeing or hearing from again. This gives me an odd feeling that there is an indiscernible pattern to life, and that if only I could learn to interpret it, I’d know what’s coming. Not that I entirely want to know what life has in store for me, because I like surprises. Still, these loops seem as though they must be meaningful in some way, even though I am aware that it is certainly one of life’s little tricks to ensure that one never recognises the meaningful moments until they are gone.
One of my concerns with moving back to Oxford was precisely that idea of ‘back’, which is not my favourite direction. But of course, coming back to a place does not also mean travelling back in time and so although the setting is familiar, all the characters have moved forward, and all of the relationships have shifted slightly to accommodate the inevitable changes brought by marriage, separation, kids, careers and just the addition of a few more years. Oxford is certainly full of memories for me, but in a way that provides a thread of continuity on into the future, rather than trapping me in the past.
So also, these other figures from the past are not insubstantial and shadowy remnants from 10 or even 20 years ago that I have conjured from memory. Out of my sight and knowledge, they have had the flesh and blood temerity to get on with their own lives; when I meet them now I don’t meet the person who I knew so long ago, but someone slightly different, with whom to get reacquainted. Since all of these people have been dear to me in one way or another, it is a marvellous thing that our paths are crossing again. It might be a transient reconnection; it might be the starting point of revived friendships that last for years. It is, of course, too soon to tell.