Whether we stick with the traditional writing and posting of cards, or whether our holiday greeting is an all-encompassing Facebook update, this time of year is probably the most common for flicking through those little black (real, electronic, metaphorical) address books and wondering just 'where is s/he now?'
One of the ultimate pleasures (and sometimes pains...) of travelling is the people we meet; one of the ultimate pains (and sometimes pleasures...) is saying goodbye to them when the time comes to move on. Thrown together in a strange place - perhaps literally strange, perhaps in the sense of being unfamiliar - often breeds an intense bonding between people whose only point of reference is that they happen to be in the same place at the same time. For a moment, an hour, a month or a year, this can be an intense joy. It might even spawn a friendship that survives a lifetime. More often, that person who was once so important to us eventually becomes the person who receives a fleeting, nostalgic and fond thought sometime mid-December.
It's getting easier now to 'find' people. Social media like Facebook and Twitter ensure that a random name-check may well throw up a dozen or more potential ex-comrades in travel. We might well narrow it down to the one true person - and then hover, wondering, over the 'message' button: do we really want to know the older/wiser/respectable/changed person s/he is today? Or are we happy with the rose-coloured memory?
If I look back honestly over the last twenty-odd years (how did I get old enough to say that?) I have probably stayed in touch, however sporadically, with the people I've really wanted to. But it doesn't mean that on a rainy, dark December night I don't have a moment of curiosity about someone from Israel, from Zanzibar, from Bradford...
And there's always one or two I dwell on that bit longer, genuinely wondering... So, Kathy, Jenny, Manfred if you're out there, writing your Christmas cards or posting your Facebook message, I'm here. You might want to drop me a line. Or not.
Happy Christmas to all of you celebrating it, and happy holidays to everyone else! 'See' you in the New Year