The Regulars

“Friends” had Central Perk

“Cheers” had, well Cheers

And every British drama or soap opera has the local Pub

Its where the characters gather daily, sometimes twice a day … and all of these places have “Regulars”; nameless characters, in the background,  that if you watch long enough, become familiar faces..

Our lives have places we consider our “Local”, be it a coffeeshop, bar, gym, or even the supermarket or vege stall, and they have their “Regulars” –  people who you see most times you visit these places. They aren’t always people you know, or even talk to, but are like the “extras” in your life.

I am in a quiz team that has been together over 15 years, and we’ve pretty much stuck to the same quiz for the last decade. At one stage it was massive with over 25 teams, but now it’s a much more modest 6-7 teams, in a much smaller, cosier venue. And the other teams are now my “Regulars”, we don’t  know all their names, but all the teams indulge in a bit of competitive ribbing. And if we see each other outside of quiz, we smile and say hi…

Another of my “Locals” is the beach I walk most mornings. I see a solid core of the same people most mornings, mostly dog walkers – actually, if I’m honest, I tend to recognise the dogs, before their owners, but am learning the human faces too.. lol.. And there is an etiquette of beach walking which means, even with earbuds in, it is usual to acknowledge the person coming the other way – a smile, or a “good morning”.. or just the old kiwi standard of a half nod…

Some people are enthusiastic in their “Good Mornings!”; others just a shy smile… A couple stop and chat.. I always at least smile – to me, its rude not to – and whenever possible I always scratch the heads of the doggos..

Amongst The Regulars, there is typical old Kiwi Bloke – greying, bearded, wearing an original checked shirt; track pants; with 2 gorgeous black dogs, of my favourite doggo type – mixed breed, stocky, muscly, shiny coated…. They look like polished statues… Superbly trained… I see all 3 of them every morning…. And for the last 6 weeks I’ve smiled….3 weeks in, I was rewarded with the Kiwi half nod – raising your chin slightly, universally known round here as “Gidday”… 2 weeks later I got a “hello”.. baby steps.. The dogs are always happy to see me….

And there is Dave. An older English man, has lived here for years, lives alone, and walks the beach every day chatting to his Regulars… We chat about life, the universe and everything.. oh, and the photo project I’m doing about the agapanthus… Dave is slowly moving from being a “Regular” to being a friend…

Being a holiday destination with a camping ground, my beach is currently full of visitors… you can tell the Kiwis and Aussies – the kids race headlong onto the sand, with a blasé enthusiasm, ignoring the beauty around them, born from a life lived in close proximity to beautiful and readily accessible beaches… The parents following, loaded down with beach paraphanalia – towels, chairs, bags, buckets, spades, kites…..

The holiday makers from further afield tend to be found, standing, drinking in the view… faces rapt; you can almost see them filling their lungs with fresh air…. As I pass, I say “gidday”; most at least smile back. Some enthusiastically say “good morning” and a few haughtily ignore me. While some respond with bemusement – they obviously come from places where strangers don’t interact with each other, so cheerfully, first thing in the day….

And if I go back to the beach at sunset and I will often meet some more regulars and holiday makers… my beach hosts a pretty spectacular sunset show, and I see those visitors from overseas, standing, facing the west; captivated by the view; taking 100s of photos, trying to capture the ephemeral short lived magic show…. Like my morning meets, we often chat about how special this place is, and how amazing the accessibility is…

My other, newish “Local”, is on Social Media. I’ve stumbled into a cosy corner, full of unbelievably nice people. We exchange thoughts, jokes, laughs and occasionally tears. And nestled around some friends I’ve found, there are, as always, The Regulars… People who I may never really interact with, but whose messages pass my feed….. Maybe I just have an eye for recognising and remembering their, normally, anonymous avatars, but I notice who’s around..

The thing with Regulars, is that often you notice them, when they’ve disappeared.. You sense their absence, more than their presence. At quiz, if a team is smaller than usual, we wonder who is missing.. on my morning walk, I tick off the people as I pass them; and on Soc Media If one of my Regulars falls off my radar, I start to look out for them, until I notice they’re posting again… In this group, there is an unspoken practice of looking out for everyone. And sometimes a message will go out, “has anyone touched base with “Miss A” or “Mr B”? and there will be answers, until the group works out that that person is ok… and I kinda wish that that was the case in real life.

Not everyone enjoys a large group around them – some choose to live solo lives, some find themselves living small lives. But its up to all of us to keep an eye on them; care about all the people around us, even if we don’t interreact on a personal level… Keep track of the people around the edges, hoping they don’t just fall off and disappear….

… And so back to my morning walk… this week I had a bit of a break through… my “Regular”, my old Kiwi Bloke, actually sought me out and started a conversation with me! It was short, about dogs…. But you take the wins where you find them… You never know, he too may move out of The Regulars and into The Friends..

Here’s to Regulars, who turn into friends….

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” , CS Lewis 

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