How to make friends...

...when you're an introvert and awkward socialiser. Ok, so maybe I don't have the bullet-proof answer to that one, because if I did I wouldn't write this. I'd be out there socialising, happily surrounded by people I've never met before, making new friends in a completely effortless way. Unfortunately that's not me... 

No. I'm the person who will make up excuses to not attend big events where I will be faced with a whole bunch of strangers and am expected to make smalltalk. I'm the person who will smile awkwardly, clinging onto her (oversized) handbag, hoping to find the one person I might 'click' with who I can then talk to for the rest of the evening. Networking and mingling are words that make my stomach turn. People who have met me in a group environment will have experienced me at my worst: I try to cover up the shyness I feel inside by overcompensating on every other front. That means I obviously don't come across as shy, but as loud and of course extremely self-confident. But that's a mask. One I have practiced wearing over many years. And yet, despite all the practice, it still feels like it's not quite refined enough and the acted self-confidence quickly turns into something more obnoxious. I will have a glass of wine or, more likely, three to help overcome nerves and to boost my confidence which inevitably leads to me appearing like I'm looking to dominate the conversation. Then I notice what I'm doing and I retreat back into my shell. It's not fun and it's not exactly conducive to making new friends because, well, it makes me look something of an idiot. And it's exhausting because I get home feeling like all my energy has been put into socialising and I then spend the next few days not only going over how I think I "misbehaved", but also "recovering" from too much social interaction.

In a way, I'm probably quite a hermit. It's not that I don't like people as such, I really do, but I like my interactions in small doses. I like to meet with a couple of friends I already know. I like small evenings at someone's house. I like the familiarity of not having to do smalltalk, but being able to have conversations that go deeper and discussions that might get heated. I love teaching my workshops because I know what I'm talking about (or at least I hope so!). I love being on shoots with whole teams because each person has their area of expertise and we come together for a job. But I'm also very happy being on my own. One of the reasons that working a lot from home suits me is that I spend a lot of time alone. Alone doesn't mean lonely. I rarely feel lonely. We're lucky that we now have the internet and email and that means that I can be (and am) in contact with people without having to be surrounded by crowds. 

All this doesn't, however, solve the problem of meeting new and interesting people and making new friends. So what's the solution? Since there's no magic wand that will suddenly turn me into an easy-going social butterfly, something else needs to happen. And this is where a certain kind of person comes in. Someone like John whom I first "met" on Instagram. We clicked and, a few months back, decided to meet. I realise that this will sound weird to anybody who isn't familiar with Instagram, but those who are will know that there clearly is something like a connection through images and that feeling that you might just get on with a person. 

So this is John's gorgeous London flat on Columbia Road. Not only is it something of a dream location, but it is also absolutely stunning on the inside. Here's a man who certainly has an eye for tracking down vintage treasures and beautiful pottery. Being there on a Sunday meant that we not only chatted, but spent time ducking in and out of the small shops along the road combined with some obligatory flower shopping on the market. Connecting through similar interests seemed never easier. We parted company that day with the promise to meet again and gather some more people around. Well, John would do the "gathering of people" and I would be one of them. You see, as it turns out, he is the perfect matchmaker! John has that knack of bringing just the right people together, making them feel welcome and comfortable in his home and with each other. And despite never quite knowing it or not being able to quite put my finger on it, he's exactly the sort of person somebody like me needs in order to meet new people and make friends.

Sharing conversations and coffee with a few people in this fabulous place felt like a treat. It wasn't awkward or forced, the fact that we all had our social media accounts in common helped, and so did the surroundings. Because when it comes to making friends, it's not down to big numbers, but to a few, carefully selected people, some common interests and ground, and a beautiful place to bring everybody together. And of course a gracious host who knows exactly what the ingredients are to make the magic happen...