The most important thing in the world

We were and are right! Friendship and family is the most important thing in the world.

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It is beyond words wonderful to have seen so many friends as we travel about in our motorhome – more than 1,000 miles now in just over a fortnight and more than 90 friends visited! What a fantastic celebration of friendship and family! We’ve travelled through Devon to Dorset and Sussex, then to Surrey and London, now in Bucks and Beds and we’ve seen so many amazing people we’re lucky enough to call friends – and what is amazing and why we urge you to: GO SEE YOUR PEOPLE! is that even in some cases with gaps of 25-plus years not actually seeing each other – quarter of a century, how did that happen!? – we carry on as if we’d seen each other the previous weekend: a true measure of friendship.

We love the CS Lewis quote about friendship – “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought that I was the only one.’” And so it is so true.

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Our family is loving the motorhoming and Camping & Caravanning Club campsite experience now, so much we can foresee it’s going to be a problem when “normal” life is set to resume in January… If you’ve not seen this video of us having fun in and around our brilliant new Swift Escape 696 motorhome aka the “fun bus”, check it out here:

As well as the absolute awesomeness of seeing so many friends and family, we’ve witnessed something brilliant and important in that our three-year-old Darley used to be shy in meeting people he’d not met before, doing the old cover-my-eyes-and-I can’t-see-you-so-you-can’t-see-me number. But in this past week he’s started going up to new people (to him), our friends, confidently and happily showing them his cuddly cat that he carries everywhere, and when it comes to saying farewell for now to our friends he’s been giving out the most precious of hugs. It’s beyond wonder to see!

It’s also something we’re delighted about that possibly couldn’t be taught as well at school as he’s meeting all sorts of people of different ages and backgrounds in different parts of the country, and that’s a brilliant self-confidence builder. No use having the best degree from Oxbridge if you don’t have the confidence and self-belief to socialise. Getting on with each other, that’s what it’s about, really. Knowing the connection we all have (something a group of disappointed men throughout history forget and so start fights as individuals or under the guise of nations). We are teaching first-hand to our boys the value of family and friendship. And we hope Darley will be confident enough to drive the motorhome soon…!

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The motorhome has been a fantastic place to sit and chat and catch up, and we can tell you as a fact: a two-second hug with a friend is worth a million social media messages. Keep that one in mind. We’ve seen some old friends for two minutes and others for a few hours, but each time by actually seeing each other and usually touching hearts with a hug we feel the friendship (although not burning out at all) has been rekindled. Visiting a friend delivers the message: you are special to me and I love you. Our friends deserve to know this.

When my best friend Tim took his life in 2012, as with many who are very close to someone taking their life, I had many intense emotions afterwards and a feeling that as a best mate I could have done more. I probably couldn’t, and in fact that I’d told Tim several times in the two months of his depression that I loved him, that was the best I could have done. See a published article I wrote on it all, The Strange, Life-Affirming Nature Of Loss, here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/10336024/The-strange-life-affirming-nature-of-loss.html That’s Tim pictured here, not long before he took his life. I love you dude.

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So this visiting friends adventure we’re on is important to us, and of course not only do we want to let our friends know they are special and loved, we too feel that love coming back. The old cliché is axiomatic: what you give you receive. Or – smile and the world smiles with you! Get to trying the nose2nose with a friend or family member for the photo we hope everyone will soon be posting to their Facebook timelines and you’ll see how a smile cannot be resisted as you look into their eyes, possibly like never before (unless you’re a brilliant comedian, trained in keeping a straight face, as Dan Skinner aka Angelos Epithemiou, below)! It’s lots and lots of fun.

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Every step of the journey we’re reminded of the importance of seeing friends now rather than next weekend that often becomes next month and then: “I can’t believe it, we said last year we’d meet and we still haven’t got round to it a year later! You know, I’m sorry I just got so busy with the children/work/sitting-on-my-arse-watching-shite-TV…” (or doing all manner of stuff, NONE of which is more important than family and friendship! Note: if your friend doesn’t come to visit you soon they clearly think watching The Apprentice is better than visiting you!). Everyone we meet has lost someone they love. We’ve had people– mothers, brothers, sisters, daddys, young dudes et al – coming up to us too saying how they are only here due to recent medical advancements such as those funded by the kind donations to such as Cancer Research UK.

The peaceful campsite we’ve just stayed on in Radnage told a similar story. Simon, who’s just set this cosy site up ( http://www.bellavistacamping.co.uk/ – with, as the name suggests, beautiful views), complete with its sheep and alpacas in the next field, listened intently to what we were doing and how we were donating £2 to Cancer Research UK for every friend/family person we visit and then hopefully inspire those friends to visit their own friends and to continue the donations (until the whole world remembers it is connected and everyone has hugged each other! No more war! ♡ ), then said to us sadly but with a strength he must have forced forward in the intervening years that he had lost his wife six years ago to cancer.

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On our visits in the past couple of weeks we’ve seen five friends from the football team I used to play for in my teens and into my early 20s, when tight shorts & mullets were as much in vogue as beards and quiffs & baggy shorts are now.

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We lost one of our friends and players from that team to cancer in the summer.

Last time I saw Sean was at a team reunion five years ago. He looked fit, well and happy – just as I remembered him from our younger days when we’d been such a big part of each other’s lives. We’d not seen each other for two decades though, but got on great as ever, agreed to meet again soon and swapped numbers. But despite a few texts it never quite happened. Then at the start of this year Sean developed cancer. He passed away in the summer aged just 45, leaving a wife and three children. Devastating and so tragic. This beautiful and poignant poem was read out at Sean’s funeral, written and read by one of his children. RIP you wonderful team player Sean.

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So it’s important to go and visit a friend now rather than later. Don’t be like me as I gaze glassy-eyed at a picture of Tim or Sean or my Uncle David or my Auntie Glenys and realise that I’ll never see them again (not in this world anyway…). And that despite, in Tim’s case, being in touch through various social media on at least a weekly basis I hadn’t actually hugged him for seven years. I didn’t know the last hug I’d ever have with him was at Heathrow that time. If I’d known that I wouldn’t have let go of him.

Sometimes it might be that a friend moves away somewhere. We all move much more than we did even just a generation ago. It makes it more difficult to see each other. It takes more effort.

For us the adventure of seeing friends and travelling around this beautiful island of Great Britain continues as we move on up north. Every morning our Daniel, aged 5, excitedly asks which friends we’re going to see today and we know wholeheartedly we are teaching our two young children the real strength of having friends and family. We hope it’s something they carry through life with them.

I can’t think of anything worse than being an old person, reflecting back and realising with a cold-shiver horror that you had got it wrong all your life as you sit there thinking: “Oh no, I wished I’d spent more time with those I love and who loved me while I had my time on this earth.” There’s no going back at that age to change it. Much better to reflect back and realise with a heartwarming smile: “I’m so happy I had all those special moments with the amazing people I made friends with and my family in my time here…”

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So that’s why we got the momentum to get rolling with this. Now we are celebrating friends and family – for they are awesome and amazing! Friendship and family is the most important thing in the world. Well, we can’t think of anything else that is – can you?

Have a look (and give a Like if you like!) to our Facebook page: http://goo.gl/w8adB0 – it’s about friendship and bringing people together. Then please play your part, make the effort and go see a friend: you could be part of the whole world eventually hugging, and for charity too. Everyone’s invited…

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Give of yourself to others (and give to yourself as you do), join in this fantastic friendship & family fiesta! And make a smile by going nose2nose too of course…! :—: 🙂

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