The time is 00:31. It is Thursday 29th September. I have been in from work for about an hour, normally I would hit the hay straight away but today, today my blog readers, is a special, special day.
TODAY IS MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY.
There will, of course, be the obligatory picture collage on all social media platforms, the annual Whatsapp of my singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her, not to mention a birthday text (we both dislike phone calls – reason 101 she is my best friend) plus the celebratory dinner tomorrow but, after mentally recalling our story to myself, I decided I wanted to write it down and share it with the world.
So here it is, The Story of Rachel and I….
Picture it, Sicily 1922… oh no, wrong story.
Picture it, a lecture hall at Kingston University, in the autumn of 2009, a small group of students have gathered to talk to a lecturer about partaking in ERASMUS the next year, the room is abuzz with excitement.
“I wonder where we can go”
“Do you think you’ll need to speak the language?”
“I wonder what the universities are like?”
Rachel “ My brother’s girlfriend did ERASMUS, she said they just partied all the time.”
That is my first real memory of ‘ole McCarth. This was a year into the start of our course at KU (class of 2011 say hey!), our course was Primary Education and as there were only around 80 students (a guess) on the course you’d imagine that we’d have crossed paths before this, well, in a word, no. No we hadn’t. I recognised her face from the rare whole cohort lectures we had, and knew her name as one of the girls I hung out with was in the same specialism as her, but I had never actually spoken to her. At that point I didn’t have any idea how important that party animal would become to me.
Fast forward a month or two and we both found out (along with Jade and Hayley) that we had been accepted on the ERASMUS programme. WAHEY. We were going to being in Valencia, Spain for a term (our course was split into terms like schools, not semesters). We were going to do our teaching placement at an international school, do a week in a local school, have a week off for Fallas and then spend 2 weeks at the university there. I will go on record to say that Hayley was a superstar in those weeks leading up to us leaving. She organised all of us; we had a group meeting with the student that had gone the year before us, she got us the name of a landlord in VLC, she contacted the school, she acted as a go-between for us and the lecturer that was our point of contact in Kingston.
January 4th 2010. Gatwick Airport. Hayley had gone a day earlier and Jade was due in a couple days later. I remember standing by myself (I didn’t want anyone to come with me, didn’t want the fuss) waiting to drop my suitcase off and hearing someone talking at 100mph about 60 people ish behind me in the queue. It was Rachel. Her friends had dropped her off, they were gabbing away. This was something I learnt very quickly about Rach; she does love to talk.
I was a very different person back then, I remember thinking at the time ‘God, I hope she likes me. I hope we get on ok. What am I going to talk to her about?’ I was very shy and nervous back then and wanted everyone to like me. Now I couldn’t give a shit, but then it really mattered to me. We met up after security and since then we’ve been pretty much inseparable. She was, and is, so easy to talk to. I remember sitting on the plane next to her and being nervous because it was a big deal, going to stay in a country for 4 months with 3 girls I didn’t know that well, a country where I didn’t know the language but somehow she distracted me jabbering away, wondering what it would be like and talking about placement amongst other things. By the time we landed in Valencia I knew she was a good egg.
We got off the plane and survived public transport with Hayley’s instructions. We came out of the metro station at Àngel Guimerà, it was the middle of the night and super quiet, as we stood there waiting for Hayley to come and meet us Rach pipes up “Have you seen the movie Taken? ‘Cause this reminds me of that movie when the two girls get kidnapped”. Excellent. Thanks for that pal.
I’m pleased to report we weren’t kidnapped and we met Hayley just fine. Due to an overlap of students leaving and arriving Rach and I ended up sharing a room for a month. That month sealed the friendship deal for the both of us I think. Never have I enjoyed sharing a bedroom with someone so much. We quickly found that we had a shared love of tea, emo music and the same stupid sense of humour. Every night we’d get in to bed, have a chat and end up laughing at something ridiculous – more than once Jade knocked on the wall and asked what we were laughing at and we couldn’t tell her because either a) she wouldn’t find it funny like us or b) we were too busy laughing to explain.
I can say for the both of us that those few months abroad were our best time at university. We had the best time. The school we were in was amazing; the teachers made us feel so welcome and even took us for our first night out drinking whilst we were there. The children were little gems and loved having us there – there were a lot of tears on our last days. On the days we weren’t at the school we partied, shopped, went to the beach, drank tea, visited our little man in the fruit and veg shop down the street, went and saw Valencia play at the Mestalla (Thanks for the tickets, Carles), snuck in a trip up to Barcelona… we had a ball.
Rach and I did try and learn the lingo properly whilst we were there but it didn’t really work out. Especially when you look at our learning techniques…
Car is Coche. The best way to remember it is ‘COtCH (e)ing in the car’
Donde means where? WHERE is the DON of the D(e)ay?
Honestly, and we wonder why we quickly unlearnt most of our ‘Spanish’. This kind of thing was one of the many things we bonded over; we thought it was a foolproof way to learn. Apparently not.
We skipped out on the local school placement together once – there was a visit to the local park and after lunch we got bored so we went home and had a nap. Never went back. There was also a lecture at the university where the lecturer was a complete arse, when we had to divide into groups for work again we both went home, had a tea, listened to music and had a nap. Hayley and Jade were both troopers and stuck it out. We just encouraged the naughty in each other I think.
Back home we both struggled to re adjust to being on a course our hearts weren’t in. The travel bug had bitten and we wanted to go out there and see everything and everywhere. If we were both honest there was a very similar reason that we both wanted to jump back on a flight to Valencia. Obviously, we didn’t. We both had different friendships groups and mine were very focused and made sure I completed assignments and went to lectures; living in Kingston made it easier for me. Rach was living at home in South Norwood and found it much easier to be distracted – especially when she got into a new relationship (George, I’m looking at you! Ha-ha) I have to say through this phase I was a big fat nag, this was our final year of uni and I made it my mission to make Rach finish the course. There was no way she was going to drop out after she’d worked so hard.
Around May 2011, I remember walking with Rach to the car park by the business school and her casually dropping in the conversation that she was pregnant. My jaw hit the floor and we had a long old chat about it in her car (miss you, Ruby). Fast forward to November 20th, I’m in Bath visiting another friend and my BB goes off (I kind of miss my Blackberry too, BBM was the nuts!) with a picture of the most precious thing. My Godson, Nephew, Friend, Guy who is super fun and so much cooler than me. Oscar. That boy has filled my life with so much love, light, happiness and playfulness in his (almost) 5 years on the planet. It has been a joy to watch him grow and become who he is. I’m pleased to report that he has the same silly sense of humor that his mum and I have. It’s great!
We’ve now been best pals for almost 7 years; this post was just the beginning of the story of Rachel and I. There have been so many more moments over the years that have cemented her place in my heart and in my life. She is an absolute gem and anyone that knows her is lucky too. Watching her become a mum and raise Oscar, along with George, has been so special. Rachel took to it so naturally, even though she was always a bit worried about it. If I ever had children I will have her on speed dial.
There is so much more to her than being Oscar’s mum though, she has been there for me and shared some of my best and worst moments. The dose of realness that I often need when I get swept up in my fantasies; she’ll always gently pull me back down to earth. She is funny, loves food as much as me – once I asked her what she wanted to do and she looked at me and said “I think I’d just like to eat some quavers”, appreciates music like I do both the ‘cool’ stuff and the not so cool. She has a sense of adventure that rivals my own, she can talk to anyone, has a heart of gold, is fiercely loyal to me, she always has my back… I don’t actually know what I did to deserve her. She is also, and she’ll hate me for saying this, like, totally gorgeous!!! Sooooo many of my friends see her pic for the first time and go ‘oh she’s so pretty’. Rachel will say something along the lines of ‘oh behave, stop it’ when she reads that but Rach hunny, we say it cause it’s true!!
I’ve rambled on a fair bit now so I will close this by saying Rachel you’re great. Thank you for being my friend. You’re infinitely cooler and prettier than me. I love you. See you tomorrow evening.