I received a message on Facebook the other day from 'Beth'. It asked if I was the SSS who'd worked at a particular hospital in the 80s and asked me to email her.
Beth and I were friends during our nurse training. She was the year behind me and lived in the same corridor in the nurses home. We talked about the usual things; crappy shifts, evil ward sisters, politics, the NHS and unreliable boyfriends. We drank hot chocolate and ate biscuits. Beth was a great friend during difficult times.
I met 'David' at a section house party on the Lea Bridge Road one alcohol fuelled evening in the late eighties. I had the hots for David's friend and he had the hots for one of my friends. Both relationships lasted all of five minutes and David and I continued to see each other as friends. It was a very easy friendship and nothing more.
One evening David came to see me but told me that he wasn't stopping, he was actually visiting someone else in the nurses home. It turned out that David and Beth had met at a party and hit it off. The relationship went well and finally they married. We kept in touch for a several years, they moved to Norfolk and I visited them there a few times. They moved house again, I didn't get a forwarding address, I made a couple of attempts at contact but failed. That was that.
About two years ago I received a friend request from David. He was still married to Beth and they still lived in Norfolk. I asked him about Beth and he said he'd tell her to contact me. She never did. He set his profile to private after about six months and he only reappeared a few months ago. And then last week I got the message from Beth.
What do you say? What can you possibly say when someone asks you to condense almost 20 years in an email?
'Well, I moved to Australia as you can see. I still work as a nurse. No husband, no kids. Forget what they say about those hunky Aussie males, nudge nudge, wink wink! I come back to the UK occasionally but not often. I'm still in contact with Anna but I no longer see Jane/Sarah/Natalie/Donna. Do you?
How are the kids? They must be so grown up now. Are you still nursing? What about David? Is he still with the police? Write soon and tell me all your news.'
Quite frankly, readers, I'd rather eat brussel sprouts with a cinammon topping than send that email. The very thought of it depresses me beyond words. And yet what do I do?
Naturally I'm curious about what she's been up to, how her life has changed, whether or not she's the same Beth who I used to walk round to the chip shop with after a late shift and discuss how much we hated our training. But where do we go after that first email? It'll just peter out and we'll be out of each others lives again.
I'll answer the email, of course. It'll go very much along the lines of the reply I outlined. I'll try to make it funny and interesting but that won't stop it from boiling down to 'still nursing, live in Australia, no not married and no kids.'