Friday, October 23, 2009

The ice breaker

When we moved five years ago to the town we currently live in, we knew nobody here. I had never lived in a small town before. I grew up in the country, where everyone seems to be a distant cousin of their neighbour and the postman knows what you had for breakfast. From there I moved on to university life in Galway, a small city in the West of Ireland. College life is the easiest time to make friends because everyone is up for partying and meeting new people.

After that I lived in the UK for a short stint, on the outskirts of London, and from there I moved to Dublin. Dublin is an easy place for a country person (or culchie, as the Dubs like to call us) to make friends, as there are enclaves in Dublin, mainly around the Dublin 6 area, inhabited by culchies in their twenties and early thirties. Working in any large organisation in Dublin, you will easily make more friends from outside of Dublin than Dubs. It's a sense of all being in the same boat which fosters a certain cameraderie.

So it was a bit of a culture shock to say the least, when I moved down the the arse end of Tipperary, to a town with a population of around 7,500. Work colleagues my age were people local to the area, who had never really lived anywhere too far from home, so they had their own lives, family units and social circles well established, and had no interest in meeting new people. My sister had moved to a town outside of Dublin in the mid 90s, and she always said what broke the ice for her was her kids. She struck up friendships with women at mother and toddler groups, or even just striking up conversations with other pram pushing Mammys when she went out for a walk. Once her girls started school, she made new friends at the school gates. So all in all, when you move to a new town, kids are the ultimate ice breaker.

So what happens when the kids just don't come along and you're living in a small town? Well we were lucky enough to meet a younger crowd of people through my work. Mainly professionals in their mid twenties to early thirties, these people were blow ins just like us. Unfortunately, now that the plant has downsized hugely, most of these people have moved on, and we are getting back to square one. I often go out for a walk during the day, and I notice how the women with babies and toddlers in buggies tend to stop and talk to each other. I often wonder will I ever be part of that.

One day when the sun was shining last week, I pulled on my runners and set off to walk the three mile round path that starts at the end of our estate. I had borrowed a cat carrier from my vet a few days previously when I was bringing the fur babies in to get microchipped. Since the vet's surgery is only a ten minute walk away and it was on my route, I grabbed the cat carrier on my way out the door since I was going to be passing the way. As usual, I met a few mothers and babies along the way, and I just smiled and nodded hello at them.

Then as I walked along, a lady came up to me and the following conversation ensued:
"Ah, are you bringing your cat to the vet?".
"No, just returning a carrier I borrowed to bring them the other day".
"Are they ok now?"
"No, they weren't sick, I just took them in to get chipped"
"I'm up and down to the vet the whole time with my two, they're getting very old. How many have you?"
"I have two, but they're only four, so they're fairly healthy apart from the odd eye infection or war wounds"
"I don't know what I'll do when mine are gone, you get so used to them around the house don't you?"
"I know, I dread the thoughts of anything happening them, you just get so attached"
"Ah sure they'll be fine, they're only young yet"

And with that, we went our seperate ways, me with a smile on my face. So you see, kids aren't the only icebreakers.


Xbox4NappyRash said...

I love the 'surrounding our estate' bit...very grand!

Mick said...

I know exactly what you mean. There's absolutely nothing to talk about. Especially in a foreign language.

Now I have a chile of my own, I walk proudly around with her in a sling and now have no end of conversations (most of which aren't worth having anyway!)

'surrounding our estate' I didn't understand it in the same way as XboX. I was thinking 'housing estate'.

Very grand indeed.

Great post

Mick said...


I'm not in the habit of walking round with vegetables in a sling :-)

Fran said...

I loved the post! Totally agree on the furry friends to wark the same magic, my sister swears that in New York is actually much better having a dog than a baby to make friends. If you do miss Dub sometimes let me know, we have a spare room! Much love, Fran

ps: loved your comments and we definitely have lots in common!

nutsinmay said...

See, I keep telling H we need, no, NEED to get a couple of kittens.

womb for improvement said...

I bet the mothers you see talking to one another are having a virtually identical conversation about their kids.

And I agree I know loads more people round here since getting the dog.

iamstacey said...

lolol! I love it! Furbaby bonding! :)

C said...

Such an awesome post! I always feel like such an outsider in our neighborhood because it seems like everyone is pushing a baby. Maybe I should start walking around with Guinness and Bella's carriers ;)


Jane G said...

All I need to do now is lead train them! It would certainly be a conversation starter...

DrSpouse said...

I know just how you feel. When I moved to our town in the North we got married shortly after and then I got pregnant 6 months later. I felt I hadn't made any friends but everyone reassured me I'd make them when the kids came along.

Five years later...

I think at least working at a university I have met some people through work, who are not originally from the area, and it's not such a small town as yours. But kittens... mmmm....