By Jamie Day | Published on 10 May 2019
It’s not uncommon for many of us to live out huge chunks of our lives online these days. We do our shopping online, we get our entertainment online, we find love online and we even make genuine friends online. Ok, so some of those friends might remain safely tucked in our phones, but I’ve been lucky enough to turn a few of those online friends into real life ones and as a Line Resident for Southern Rail, I’m making sure to visit more of them across the network.
As much as social media gets a bashing for all the things it gets wrong, I’m thankful for the transformation it’s made to my friendship groups. As family life takes over and parents’ evenings are the priority over the pub, it’s only inevitable some longstanding friendships might feel the strain of modern life.
Being part of a close-knit community of dads on Instagram for a few years, it’s been great to see so many new bonds that have formed because of social media. As with all large friendship groups, people will naturally gravitate towards like-minded individuals who may share common interests and hobbies, be of a similar age etc. In my case, I’ve formed a strong rapport with a dad called Billy (or @dadoutsidethelines on Instagram).
Billy and I are both knocking 40, have two kids who are of a similar age, love football, share a similar dry humour and don’t live too far away from each other. Sounds pretty perfect, right?
Well, despite our flourishing friendship, we’ve only met outside of our larger dads’ group maybe two or three times. On each occasion, it’s been on neutral ground (at a pub and a football game), but after our last meet - with plenty of chat and many a belly laugh - I knew it was time to see if our friendship could bloom further still. So, I proposed dinner on his home turf in Croydon.
With a time and date agreed, I took advantage of my role as a Southern Rail Line Resident and hopped on a train from Clapham down to Croydon for our daddy dinner date. The journey is a quick one – less than 30 minutes and a direct journey, so it couldn’t of been more convenient.
We met at Boxpark, which was only a short stroll from the station. Now, for anyone who doesn’t know much about Boxpark’s story, its sites are some of my favourite places in London. Having started in Shoreditch when I was living there a few years ago, it’s a stack of metal shipping containers re-fitted as shops and they’ve quickly become one of my preferred spots for picking up new garms and a coffee away from the repetitiveness of the high street chains.
Since then, the Croydon and Wembley spaces have opened with a focus on food and entertainment. All the sites provide a vibrant atmosphere that attracts all kinds of people. I’ve eaten at the Wembley site twice; once with my 6-year-old daughter and once with my 69-year-old father – and both of them loved it!
Upon meeting Billy, it was quickly clear we weren’t going to agree on cuisine, but because of the way the site is set up (different food units wrap around the outside with multiple tables in the middle), that didn’t matter at all. Billy chose from a Thai stall whilst I went for pizza. After parting to get our food we met in the middle, pulled up a pew against a long dark table and chatted the evening away whilst devouring our scrumptious food. Talk went from family to social media, to football, back to family, a bit more social media, a quick return to the footie, all before ending on the family and remembering we better get home!
Before heading back to the station, there was a decent manly hug, and pleasingly we organised another meet, with Billy announcing, ‘let’s do it again some time soon, and get the wives involved too’. Now if that isn’t a transformation of how our modern lives have evolved with social media, I don’t know what is! First the dads, next the mums, no doubt the kids will be getting involved soon, too. Might as well get a joint family holiday in the diary!