The replies, text messages, emails and phone call responses to my recent post When You Gonna Wake Up and Strengthen the Things that Remain made me lose two nights’ sleep. The insomnia was not for any negative reasons, but rather a warm feeling of love and friendship.
You see, it is easy to know who you love and who loves you… my wife, my children and my mother come instantly to mind. But it is less easy to appreciate who are true friends.
I guess that due to my inherent OCD nature I have always demanded loyalty from friends and in return given my entire loyalty to them, through good times and bad. Some, who I regarded as true close friends have let me down and so were jettisoned from my world, something I now regret, because we are all human and all make mistakes – me more than most!
Google the word ‘friendship’ and a myriad of advice is offered from all corners of the world:
Friendship is a type of relationship between two people who care about each other. But such a dry definition doesn’t do the concept of friendship justice. Consider these examples: A friend is the first person you want to call when you hear good news. A friend remembers that you don’t like pickles on your sandwich. A friend will accompany you on the most boring of errands and make them seem fun.
In other words, friendship is wonderful. But that’s not to say friendship is easy, though. It demands time and effort, and it requires that people put someone other than themselves first sometimes. But in exchange for that work, a friend can provide an immense amount of support and comfort in good times and in bad.
Many qualities are necessary for a good friendship, including honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty and unconditional acceptance. A friendship should make both people in the relationship happy; both people should have fun when they spend time together. To be perfectly frank, that’s a tall order. Human beings can clash very easily, which is why it’s hard for some people to maintain many friendships. It’s possible that friendship can exist between two people at one stage of life, but life changes and personal growth may make friendship impossible at another stage.
So my best friend is also the woman I love, my wife Gill.
For longevity I also count at least two friends from school, Alex (who has known me since I was 12) and Graham, who has been a best mate since we were in sixth form together, and with whom I share many life similarities.
Then I am blessed to count upon two more friends from my university days, Jo and Judith. In Jo’s case I feel a close affinity even though we have not seen each other in 35 years. So Facebook has been our saviour! Judith and I have remained friends even after both were battered blue by life experiences, but have been there for each other.
Next are the friends I picked up along the way at work and at home and who are still there even after 15, 20 or 30 years: a former student Andy, ex work colleagues Jane, Karen, Debs, Stephen and Peter. My son’s child-minder and her husband Catheryn and Colin; friends through thick and thin Judith and Lawson; and Sue who was one of my first visitors when I had cancer even though she was phobic about hospitals!
And finally there are those I should classify as new friends – people who have only been in my life a few years, but mean so much: the wonderful Angela and Alex, the rock solid and caring Caryn and her son Sam (by chance my son’s best friend), my best friend at work Craig, my almost surrogate daughter Helen, who was my witness at my wedding to Gill; the amazing and lovely reporting duo Adele and Natalie; my former boss who is still there to offer advice Graham; the lovely Hannah and Karen, whose words in the past few days have had me in tears; the gorgeous Sue, two friends and among the best journalists I have worked with Sophie and Rachel and the pug loving Yvonne, again whose words have given me great comfort.
A man is known by his friends and not his enemies and I am a very lucky man.
All of the above have been there when my life was at the bottom and to them I can only give my love and thanks and the knowledge that I will never forget any of you.