I suppose I was at a bit of a loose end, socially speaking, after leaving uni. Most of my friends were still there, while I was in another town, jobhunting and not having a huge deal of time left for hanging around in pubs or allowed to eat in the university kitchens. It was then that I noticed an ad in the personal columns, asking for new members to come forward for a dinner club in my hometown. I applied and was invited to dinner.
From what I can remember, this dinner club was very strange, in that these people, all young professionals, had been having dinner on a weekly basis for over a year, and yet they had hardly two words to say to one another. One of them cooked, they all ate in virtual silence, and after dinner they worked out who had had what and owed the host what sum. Then they went off, one to read the newspaper, the other to do the dishes, and the rest to God knows where, to discuss which one of us newbies (there were 3 other people who had answered the ad) would be invited to join their club. Left on our own, the four of us quickly decided that this was not what we had had in mind when we read the ad, that we would be better off starting our own club, and left.
We were all new to this, and we all had our reasons for wanting to get together and chew the cud over dinner once every so often. I, because I missed that part of my former student existence; P. & A. because they had just moved to The Hague for their job, but didn't know anyone there; and M. because she had recently been dumped by her baby's father and felt she needed to make herself some new friends who weren't associated with her ex as well. On a personal level, we all got along famously, and soon we were not just people who happened to share a meal together as the other group had been, but real friends. We met once every 4-6 weeks at one of our homes, where we would pull out all the stops to prepare a fantastic dinner party for our friends, we didn't worry about the cost of a meal or the wine (sometimes you spent a little more, sometime a little less); and occasionally we socialised in other settings, too, going to dancings and festivals together, or having a Sunday picnic in the woods, visit each other on birthdays and attend each other's parties. Sometimes, we invited other people to dine with us, and for a while, P2 became a regular attendee -- until he found himself a boyfriend and gradually weaned himself off us. A replacement was quickly found in F., a young journalist who had come to The Hague in search of a job, and another young woman in need of distraction after a bad breakup, I. Meanwhile, M. patched things up with her baby's father and moved to Zeeland with him. We all descended on their new place there one night, but it was too far away and she never came to any of the other dinners anymore.
The remaining five kept going. People married, changed jobs, moved house, had children, and the frequency with which we shared a meal together changed from once every 4-6 weeks to once every so often, maybe 2 or 3 times a year. And then, towards the end of 2001, F. announced that he and his family would be moving to Brussels, where he had taken a new job at the European Parliament. I. and her new husband revealed that they had been looking at houses in the east of the country, and had just found one they liked so much they'd put an offer in. In view of that new information, we decided that it wouldn't be possible to keep the Dinner Club going as it had, and in March 2002, we had our last dinner party together.
Over the following years, we kept in touch by means of the occasional card, e-mail or phone call, or meeting up for a coffee when someone happened to be in town. I even went to the NorthSea Jazz Festival with I. one year, when her husband fell ill and couldn't go.
Earlier this year, I. decided that it was high time we all got back together and see her house, so she invited us round for lunch and a woodland walk. A. called last week and asked if she and I could travel there together, and so I met up with her in Utrecht to take the train to Deventer and thence the bus to Borculo. When we arrived at our destination, I. told us that sadly, F. had had to cancel, due to the fact that an important meeting had come up on Monday for which he needed to prepare, but that since his term of office was almost up, he would be coming back to The Hague this summer and he was looking forward to seeing us all again then. A. admitted that P. hadn't felt it right to come along as he and she were actually in the middle of getting a divorce, and so it was just the four of us for that lunch yesterday, but we had the most wonderful time. Sometimes, friendships suffer from long silences, but fortunately, not this one. We soon laughed and joked and teased each other as we always had, and when we said goodbye, we said it in the sure knowledge that however long it may be before we'll see each other again, see each other again, we will.