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friends keep my little world turning

I met Bertha Kilby from a little while ago. If you know the little Hertfordshire village of Bramfield, you will know Bertha. She is 104 now but, at the time was 103 and three quarters, and a truly amazing lady with all her marbles and just a tiny set of wheels to balance her to the front door and back. I asked her what her secret was and she said, without a pause, “my friends”. Well that and being interested in people generally. Which I think says a lot. (She also never had children or a husband: do you suspect this could have also played a part?!).

Then there was the lady at the Football Match, who had had breast cancer twice, and whose entire immediate family had died as they lurched from one tragic disaster to another. She had two kids she had brought up all by herself and she had lost her  (now) ex-husband in a different sort of way, after three of his best friends all died within months of each other. She, despite the faint echoes of challenge from down the years, was sparkly and smiling and, well, interested.

I see something in these women that I recognise in myself. An unashamed love of other people. Other folk give you energy and make you tick. It’s something unbidden and natural and wonderful. It makes you curious and interested and usually results in you asking lots of questions. It also means lots of really good, really special, really proper friends: something I wouldn’t give up for all the precious gems in the universe.

I’m beginning to think, you see, that friends are the most important thing in the world. Controversial I know, and if you have family you will probably argue that your children pip your mates to the post; or if you are in a loving marriage that it’s your partner who would take first prize. But there’s something so unique and special about a friend that no-one else can equal. Their friendship is a gift.  It’s not expected and it’s not obligatory. It’s a choice and with that it’s a gift of immeasurable worth. A real, true, faithful friend will always be there for you. Your whole world can be falling apart around your ears, the ground might have disappeared from beneath your feet, you might have just given away another precious piece of your heart, but as long as you have your friends around you, you know that everything will eventually be ok.

Whenever I go through a break up (and yes, there have been one or two) I think back to my all-girls school days and remember how over the moon (and today it’s a perigee moon) I was, to have finally found some truly precious friends who I knew would never leave me.  It’s like everything just clicked into place from that point on. Suddenly, I knew I was going to be ok. Those special people are still here with me now as I navigate another door closing, door opening chapter of my crazy little life. And I am so bloody grateful. So what if my love life is an unexplored minefield?

It was that day in a London Pub with Polly and Viki and Charlotte (Sally in spirit as we toasted the birth of her new baby girl, little Alice) that I realised that I was definitely going to be ok. I had made the right decision. I was so happy to be just there with them and a weight that I didn’t realise had been there, just lifted from my mind. Viki was the first person I’d told because she asked the right questions and got in touch at just the right time.  It didn’t matter that she was in Israel and dealing with a baby with Colic. There she was, on Skype, saying all the right things. Polly says it all with her hugs and our toe to toe chats. Char transmits hope in sparks, despite being to her own little hell and back in the last couple of years.

There’s Nikki (silkiest skin in the world!) who I ran to first of all after she detected the under-currents so offered before I had time to think of a solution myself. Amy-Paimy and Kerry and Julie who, despite being more than a hands reach away, have propped me up with girly nights and unassuming phone chats, emails and facebook messages. Glamorous Kelly who has fed me slow cooked Bolognese and constantly reminded me of the value of who I am, putting me up on the blow up bed in her 5 month old son’s bedroom. Paula and Graham seem to have made it their mission to see that I fulfil my travelling, writing potential by sending me bloggers internship adverts for Australia in between their efforts to relocate me to Abu Dhabi where they’ve just set up their new home.  Tracy put me up in her lounge and helped fill this Sunday Bank Holiday by inviting me to join in on the ‘cinema evening’ she had with her two girls tonight.  I cannot tell you how nice it was to sit under a furry blanked with six year old Ella eating popcorn next to me and nine year old Abi teasing me about how I was crying “at Nanny McPhee?!”

Then there’s my Marie. Chattering away and comparing my predicament and asking me questions at a million miles an hour while we run together and chase off the post-break-up-blues. She stemmed my desperate and doubting tears as I drove away from my old life and came over to help prepare me for my new one, dropping in on her way home when the new lodger came over. Wise-head-Emma with her beautiful flame coloured hair. She listens patiently, takes it all on board and then always asks the right questions.  Sara who furnishes me with a Gruffalo bed-fellow and then hands over the keys to her and her boyfriend’s newly done-up apartment for an entire fortnight so I have a bolt hole next to the pretty River in Ware.

In fact, at one point, I had three sets of keys to houses that were not my own if you count Marie’s and my Mum’s. How amazing are my friends? I would say family and friends, but I am lucky enough to be able to count my family amongst my friends.

My beautiful little sister Ruthie has been there every step of the way and has visited, called, listened, reassured, psycho analysed (only in a helpful way) and heard it all but never once judged.Jane sent little duck, rabbit and sheep shaped chocolates from the wilds of Scotland: ‘little friends to cheer you up’ and Sarah has been skype-reassuring from Roma. Mum has been my constant. How can I even start to put words down on paper about how astounding she is?

I honestly would have been lost without this intricate and precious network of friends. Without wanting to get too, like biblical or something, they have given me shelter and warmth (both sorts), fed my body and soul, kept me smiling and balanced me upright like angels dusted in gold.

Someone told me a story recently about a religious man who was asked how he could have faith when the world is so unfair at times. He said that there are two things that enable you to have faith in life: choice and chance. Both of them are inevitable and both of them shape the path you eventually will walk down. Think about it. It makes sense.

I am so glad that I have made the choices that I have. They might have unhinged and unbalanced the whole of my world at the time; they might have sent me slanting and sliding off into the unknown on more than one occasion; they might even have been the wrong choices in the end for some reason. But – whatever the outcome of those choices – I know that chance must like me quite a lot because whatever, it has brought me such incredible pockets of very special people, every step of the way. And I’ve not even mentioned half of my precious collection here.

I might not be religious in the traditional sense, but when it comes to friendship I have total faith. I know, deep inside, that my incredible collection of friends will be there always; no matter what might be waiting around the corner preparing to pounce, good or bad. And that makes me very blessed indeed.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. sara #

    I thought I recognised this handsome little fella with the protruding eyes. I agree, friends are the best, especially us lot, ha ha! Glad you’re still writing your blog, have been reading it whilst lying on the sofa being very lazy. I like the one about the yellow wellies, oh and the bath towels. Great photos too. x

    May 14, 2012

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