I’ve never been the sort of person to want a lot of close friends. Acquaintances, yes. Workmates, yes. But true friends not so much. My husband, my kids, my brother and sister and their spouses are great friends and I love them to bits. But friends who aren’t family members are different. You have to work that little bit harder because, if you lose them, they won’t still be in your circle and they could be gone forever…
It’s a question of trust, I suppose. I was the type of child who liked to have one or two very dear friends, who would be the centre of my world. I could confide in them, console them, laugh uncontrollably with them, unburden myself to them, moan to them, share gossip with them…basically, they were there for me and I was there for them. It was important that I could trust them, and once that trust was broken…well, it took a lot to go there again.
My first friend was Shirley. I met her on the first day of school and we were both incredibly shy. In fact, we were so shy I don’t think we’d ever have spoken to each other if our mothers hadn’t chummed up at the school gates and it turned out we lived in the same street. We entered the classroom that first day wearing the same dress. Our mothers had the same catalogue! 🙂 So we soon became firm friends, and I was truly heartbroken when she and her family moved to the next village, which may as well have been Outer Mongolia as she went to a different school. I never saw her again.
Then came Mandy. Mandy had red hair and green eyes and porcelain skin and absolutely fascinated me. I’d never seen such fabulous colouring and I wanted to be her best friend. And I was. Till another girl wanted to be her best friend, too. Rats. It’s funny how, at the age of eight, you simply cannot have two best best friends. It was a power struggle and went on for over a year till I was completely drained. But then I got chummy with a girl called Katherine and left Mandy behind. Oddly enough, we were also very close to Janet and it never bothered us in the slightest that there were three of us. I suppose by nine we’d matured! Anyway, we were great friends and I adored them both. But then we left primary school and went to high school and lost touch as we were separated and drifted away into our different educational streams.
Carolyn was my next best friend. She was the opposite of me. Very sporty and athletic. She didn’t read much and I hated sports so I don’t know why we were such good friends, but we were. She had pet mice which I loved. My parents hated mice so when her mouse, Doris, had babies we came up with all sorts of elaborate charades to enable me to have one of them. We tried desperately to save up for a cage so that I could present it to my parents as a fait accompli. I chose my mouse – a little black one – and called him Boris. But we never managed to get the cage and Carolyn’s parents got rid of the mice to a pet shop and that was that. We drifted apart. In fact, we had a major falling out, and I can’t for the life of me remember why, but we were never really friends again, which is sad.
By then, I was fourteen. In the year of 1978 a lot of things happened. Saturday Night Fever and Grease exploded onto the screens, the Bee Gees were playing on every radio, cassette player and record player in the country, and I chummed up with D. Now, if ever I had a best best friend it was D. We really, really connected. No one could make me laugh, infuriate me, make me think, stir my imagination and test my patience like she could. I suspect I did much the same for her. We would sit in her living room (a couple of times when we were supposed to be at school – sorry, Mum and D’s mum!) while her parents were at work and play Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush over and over again. Kate Bush was our heroine. She still is, actually. We’d ponder the meaning of life for hours, trying to work out what exactly was God? We explored different religions and spiritual paths, looked for hidden meanings in everything, discussed conspiracy theories, played our music and laughed. My God we laughed. No one could crack me up like D.
We stayed friends for a long time. In fact, she was godmother to my eldest daughter and we stayed very close until we were in our mid twenties. Then we drifted apart. I had a family and was a stay-at-home mum. She was single, working, at university, making lots of new friends and heading off on adventures such as backpacking around Ireland. It was all very different to my life. I missed her but I saw her occasionally. The last time I saw her she’d just become a mum herself. That child is now in her early twenties so you can see how long it’s been.
I don’t think I got close to anyone after that for a long time. I had friends, but not like her. It took a long time to get attached to someone else, but eventually I got closer to someone I’d known for years. In the end she was really dear to me and I think she probably knew more about me than my own husband. But things happened, we fell out (I think. I don’t remember it actually happening but it must have, I suppose?) Anyway, I haven’t seen her for around six or seven years. It makes me sad but I think it’s probably beyond repair, and I have no idea why. I would never have believed it because I honestly thought she was my best friend for life. You never can tell.
Facebook is a great invention in many ways. I had a great friend from America whom I met in the early eighties. He went back to the States and I never thought I’d hear from him again, but thanks to Facebook we’re back in touch and can message each other, share links and photos and updates and it’s brilliant to hear from him. And I got back in touch with D which was fabulous! It was nerve-wracking at first as so much had happened since we last met and I think we were both a bit nervous, but she still “gets” me, and sometimes I’ll smile when I read her posts or see a picture she’s put up because it resonates so much with me, and I’ll think, she’s still my friend, even though we haven’t seen each other for so long. She’ll always be special to me. I hope that, one day, we’ll find the courage to actually meet up again. It would be lovely to have her back in my life properly.
And now I have a whole bunch of new friends – my writing pals. The Write Romantics are my first “gang”! 🙂 I’m lucky to live fairly close to two of them – Julie and Alex – and we meet up pretty regularly for tea and cake. I met them on Saturday. We went to a lovely little cafe in Beverley and had lunch and celebrated Julie’s book deal. We chatted about what we’d been up to since we last saw each other, caught up with our writing news and discussed our books and made plans for our anthology release. (It’s called Winter Tales – Stories to Warm Your Heart. Read about that here). It’s for two very good causes and will be launched in early November so it’s all quite exciting. I look forward to my catch-ups with Julie and Alex so much and I can’t wait to meet the other Write Romantics. I took the plunge and booked time off work for next July so that I can definitely attend the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference in London, so I’ll be hopefully meeting at least some of them. They already feel like dear friends and have made me so welcome. I’m also hoping to meet up with lovely friends I’ve met online through writing. I feel like my life has completely changed and I’m so lucky and so blessed to have so many wonderful people in it.
Never underestimate how important friends are. I have had some dear friends that slipped through the net and I feel sad about that. If you have a close friend, let them know how much they mean to you, and be thankful that they’re in your life. I know I’m thankful for mine.
Have a great week xx