One of the things that I noticed when I moved to Sydney 10 years ago is the difference in socialising. Specifically I found that people don't tend to invite you to their houses very often. If there is an event to be celebrated, such as a birthday, you are invited to a restaurant and you pay for your meal and drinks. It's fine, but not that personal.
I was reminded of this recently when Charlie and I were out for a walk on a sunny, sparkly Autumn afternoon. I struck up a conversation with a lovely Irish woman who was enjoying a cheeky wine in the sun at Blackwattle Bay. We chatted about all sorts of things and somehow not being invited to Sydneysider's homes was one of the topics! It's not just me who has noticed this phenomena!
The most I have been to people's houses is post having children. It's not that much fun taking a baby and a 3 year old to a cafe or restaurant. Actually Aiden is fine. It's Charlie that's the bugger! Maybe it's the size of people's houses? Maybe people aren't good cooks? Maybe people in the big smoke just like to get out?
The first time I got invited to someone's home in Sydney, was for Bookclub. Not long after I landed my first job in Sydney I met Laura. At the time, Laura was the girlfriend of one of my work colleagues Nathan. At our first meeting she invited me to come along to her Bookclub. Hurrah! A new friend and the potential to meet more while reading books. All good.
I love Bookclub. It was just the right group of people and format for me. The three things I love are:
1. I have met some great people who work in interesting jobs and industries. A couple are/were editors for Who Magazine (so cool) and some work in PR. There is a whole variety of jobs and interests in the group. Love that. This has made for diverse discussions over the years.
2. We have a relaxed format. People who I have spoken to over the years about my Bookclub, talk to me about their Bookclub experiences. Many Bookclub's seem quite structured. For example at the start of the year a book-list is posted for the whole year with the members not having a choice of what books they read. Then the book club meetings are quite serious with structured 'Bookclub' discussion questions. A bit too much like high school English if you ask me.
Our Bookclub is relaxed. We pick a book at each meeting to read and discuss at the next meeting. We also set the meeting date from meeting to meeting. And the way we choose the book differs. We don't discriminate on the style of book and we are not literary snobs. We generally have a discussion about what to read next. Sometimes we choose a book because it's getting a lot of press or media attention like when we read "The Bride Stripped Bare". Other times we choose a book based on a small review in the paper or because a movie is coming out. We read "Girl with a Pearl Earring" and went to see the movie starting Scarlett Johansson for our book club meeting. We chose a book set in Melbourne when we did a weekend trip to Melbourne as a group. One of our founding members Simone moved back there and organised a fab weekend for a group of us. We had so much fun we didn't really talk about the book! Simone writes a great blog on breastfeeding on Miranda Kerr's website Kora, and is about to leave her editing job to start her new career as a private lactation consultant. Go Simone!
Sometimes we choose a classic, such as Wuthering Heights and other times we have done something a bit more in the Chick lit genre. We chose to read The Slap when it was starting to get some hype and we went to see Christos Tsiolkas, the author, speak at the Sydney Writers festival. We had lunch afterwards and could not stop speaking about the book. I have just finished watching the TV series "The Slap", based on this book. Really, really good Australian drama that is true to the novel. We also saw the author of "We Need to Talk about Kevin", Lional Shriver at the Sydney writers festival another year and had dinner afterwards. We have chosen a book based on a painting that hangs in the Art Gallery of NSW called "Five Bells" and then went to see the painting as part our Bookclub outing, along with drinks and dinner. A culture fix that night!
As you can see we like to mix it up a bit. It's also not a big deal if you don't read the book, though it can make discussion tricky. Early on in my Bookclub attendance I just couldn't get into the selected book "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides. I went along to that meeting only having read a couple of chapters and then discarding it. The rest of the group loved the book and talked so animatedly about it, that it made me persevere. It turned out to be a great book and I'm glad I tried again. That's the great thing about Bookclub. You get to read things you wouldn't normally read.
3. While we have quite a few outings, we often just meet at someone's house. With lots of nibbly food and wine on a Saturday afternoon. This satisfies my need to check out other people's lovely homes and have a much more personal and relaxed experience.
So what's the problem? Our Bookclub hasn't met for maybe 12 months. Sigh. Everyone has been busy, I know, but I'm really hoping this post remind us all how fun Bookclub is, and helps us commit to meeting up again.