Socialising again is hard. Just ask the friend whose visit I ruined


We’re all catching up with family and friends: a joyful but also fraught process, judging by the snippets wafting my way from neighbouring gardens and streets. Me too: it had been 10 months since I had seen my best friend until she came to stay last week. It was wonderful, but also evidence of how incapable I now am of behaving like a normal human being.

Firstly – despite being desperate for this moment for months – I got the day wrong. Then, on the right day, I fired off a series of panicky, apologetic messages after getting distracted by a Greek bakery on the way to collect her. On arrival at the station, I got out my phone to find a missed call and multiple messages. “EMMA. I am still in London. I do not arrive for two hours.”

Once we were finally reunited, I realised that, despite spending my every free moment over the preceding fortnight considering every possible permutation of food and fun, I had organised nothing. Worse, I had failed to factor in half term, meaning every cafe, bar and tourist attraction in York was seething; we ate Greek pastries uncomfortably on a wall.

‘I have given you a terrible time,’ I wept, unhelpfully. ‘Those puffins are miles away!’

The second day – despite our long-nourished fantasy of eating lobster together – I inexplicably drove her for hours through tiny country lanes to look at seabirds from a distance on a wholly lobster-free cliff. She bore this with great fortitude until her hay fever became unbearable. Finally, sitting in the stifling car in a packed car park as a man in a hi-vis tabard shouted repeatedly: “Are you leaving?”, I broke down and cried. “I have given you a terrible time,” I wept, unhelpfully. “Those puffins are miles away! Yorkshire plants are murdering you! I’m a horrible host!”

Thankfully, she is a wise and compassionate soul. “None of us are very good with people yet,” she reassured me, laughing. It’s true. We need to be socialised again, like puppies: calmly, with treats. For the rest of her visit, we stuck to quiet sitting at home; possibly the one thing we can all still master with confidence.