Monday, 18 April 2011

Bitter-sweet Memories Of Friendship

Around 8 years ago, when I first purchased my house,  I hosted the occasional  party. I just had one son back then, and he spent most weekends with his dad.The first party I held simply worked. I don't have many friends (who does?) the word 'friend' is used too freely for my liking. Maybe I sacrificed the chance to establish deep and lasting friendships at High School by opting to have a 'boy'friend .
This party was a sort of house-warming-cum-birthday celebration on a warm July evening. The ambience was just right, and there were very few guests who already knew each other, this seemed to be a good thing.  I was in high spirits, it was the start of a happier period after a stressful few years. My twelve guests behaved impeccably, despite drinking far too much. Everyone mingled comfortably, nothing valuable got broken and (very importantly) nobody tried to take over the music.
My mum's elderly neighbour attended for a few hours, she is extremely funny without ever trying to be. One evening, she came over to my parent's house to dye my hair. A hyper-active friend of mine was scrubbing the carpet out of sheer boredom while she waited for me, and my brother was watching TV. Once the dye was applied, we all sat to watch a documentary about the Barrymore/Lubbock scandal. During an ad break, Rita lifted her vintage 1950's glasses and leant in to my brother exclaiming; "now, you imagine that. A fist. Up your backside. Dirty bastards!" she then carried on watching the documentary with interest.
One guest was a friend of a friend,it was he first time I'd met him. He reminded me of a  Barbie doll. My mum and Rita were all over him like a cheap suit. "Look at his clean shoes!" "What beautiful white teeth". Bleached blonde hair, deep tan, he stood at least 6ft 2" and was an instant hit with everyone, choosing to discuss shopping and cocktails.  Another guest impressed me with the effort she put in to attending. After finishing a ten hour shift at the nursing home, she went home, put her three children to bed, got a taxi to my house stopping to purchase flowers, a vase and wine before arriving with a plate of home-made cakes. I was so glad to see her looking happy, and it seemed her life was settled. Of all the people I know, she would be the most difficult to seem believable in a book or film. With no sense of her mortality, life for her has so far been a catalogue of drama. 
Looking back, that visit from her was probably the last time she was ever within a chance of living her life without pain. Now, her ex-mum in law has custody of the children, she had another baby with a waster and though I haven't seen her in years, text messages from her suggest her life is in tatters. Despite her talent, charisma and intelligence, she actively chooses to live her life in the danger zone. It's impossible to feel sympathy for her when I hear of the latest disaster she's involved in, but there's room for plenty of pity.
When I first met her, she was 19 and had just had her first baby, so I didn't get to talk to her properly.  A few months later, when I was heavily pregnant,we spent the day alone together. It could have been extremely awkward, she knew nothing about me, was from a different area and a few years younger. The day was spent drinking tea, doing crosswords, and conversing in the most natural, comfortable way imaginable. Over the following two years I spent a lot of time in her company.  We were two very bored young ladies with partners who did little to stimulate our fertile imaginations. The phrase 'The Devil finds work for idle hands" comes to mind when I think back on the times we spent together. A typical day would consist of  us taking the children out in the morning, then going back to her house for lunch. I would beg her to play the piano, it would take ages for her to agree, but was always worth the effort. At the risk of sounding like I was full of virtue, it was usually she who'd feel an overwhelming desire to do something mischievous.
One afternoon, we were moaning about being skint (nothing has changed). After rooting though every jar, drawer, pocket and bag we collected around £3. The best way to spend it, we decided, was on some scratch cards. We won a tidy sum, £85 which was promptly spent on wine, gourmet food and treats for the children.
That seemed so naughty and irresponsible, the food and wine was all consumed that evening, we created a five-course masterpiece. By midnight we were all embroiled in a huge argument, largely because she couldn't handle 'fun' coming to an end.
There was nothing terrible about what we did, yet every day I spent with her seemed to finish with me feeling guilty. Was it because I wasn't fully embracing her 'live for the moment' philosophy? Maybe it wasn't guilt, just fear  because I knew she was at the very beginning of a downward spiral. Once, she said it was her dream to have a smart house, lovely clothes and a fridge full of Marks and Spencer's food.  Hardly a difficult dream to achieve, but for her, it was like trying to rescue a wet fly.
That night, at the party, she was on her way to achieving the elusive dream. Last time I heard from her she was a million miles from it. The fact I think about her so often means the friendship must have gone a little deeper than I realised. It's a friendship confined to mere memory now, almost lost.
Sadly, so many friendships end up being a brief slideshow of 'moments'  don't they?


  1. great post as always - I have several friendships that were amazing but with the changes in our lives and the years that passed we have drifted apart and I never hear from them now. It is nice though to remember the good times and to be honest we probably wouldnt get on as well now. Scarlett x

  2. I've been quite philosophical over friendships myself just recently - I've found I've grown away from those I'd least expected to!

  3. Another thought provoking post. I have several good friends who I know are 'there' but who I don't see much of really, or even speak to that often. Change in geography, change in job, change in lifestyle and finances have all contributed. I do sometimes miss my university days, where I had the closest friendships I've ever had, and my first friend from nursery school, who I stayed insperable from through primary until she moved to Ceredigion. I had one last beautiful Summer with her (well it was a week I think, but felt endless) when I went to stay with her family in their new house, but I knew things would never be the same after that.

  4. I have one friend from primary school, one from my teens who I see regularly. Neither have partners or children, but they have gone to great lengths to maintain our friendship. It seems being successful, or being a failure in life are sure-fire ways to lose your friends!

  5. A really good post. I've blogged about friendship a couple of times - it's a really hard one. I think no matter what life throws at you some friends will be around forever and some will drift. I used to always be the one who always tries to maintain contact with one friend but I've given up now. However, my best friend and I have been friends for over 30 years despite leading totally different lives.

  6. great post, I find that ture friends will make the effort even if there is distance between you or a change in circumstances.
    Thanks for the tip about the home blog x


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