Words for Friends #3

This is part of a new series of blogs entitled Words for Friends, in which I will try to acknowledge some people in my life for whom words of thanks are not nearly enough.

These epitaphs to my true and lovely friends are published in a random order as fancy takes me.

#3 Andrea

Throughout our lives we meet true soul mates and Andrea is one of my most precious.

We met in the most extraordinary of circumstances in the winter of 1987, while we were both recovering from cancer surgery. Racked in pain with bone cancer, and at just 20 years-old she knew her chances of survival were slim. “But I’m going to fight it,” she urged, willing me to do the same. “I haven’t yet got my degree, I haven’t learned to drive… and I’m still a virgin. “I want to live a bit before I die.”

My memories of Andrea always remain, and have often been my driving force to live.

Her laughter as she beat me in a physiotherapy game of football in the hospital gym. At the end of the game we collapsed side by side on the floor guffawing at how silly all this was.

Then there was the Wednesday night visit to the local rugby club for a game of bingo and a half pint of beer. We walked slowly back to the hospital at 10pm. She rested her head on my shoulder as we walked and suddenly whispered: “I love you Nic… we are going to win, aren’t we?” And then there was the rainy December day when she returned from a Christmas shopping trip in Cardiff city centre laden down with presents and a £300 hole in her Visa card. Her pleasure was manifest and her guilty laugh echoes now as I remember her.

A year before her death in 1990, I visited Andrea again in a hospital in Birmingham, where she had undergone a hip replacement operation in a last attempt by surgeons to remove the seat of her cancer.

I sat and clenched her right hand and looked into her sparkling eyes.

I giggled: “Hey, you’ve got freckles and hair!”

“Yes,” she answered, “I have been off chemotherapy for three months to build up my strength for the op.”

I had only known Andrea as a tall, underweight, pale-faced girl stooped under a horrendous NHS wig, which at times made her look like an extra in the Addams Family.

But now, holding her hand, this was how I was going to remember her… and I still do.

H Bomb

Come and sit here, you said

With that sparkle in your smile

Listen to the music we play

And linger for a while

H Bomb, H Bomb

You fell from heaven

And gave me new clear vision

With a love that lasts forever

Burning deep in our soul fission

You played those notes real deep

With precision and chords so blue

You held the bass line down

To elicit your choral hue

H Bomb, H Bomb

You fell from heaven

And gave me new clear vision

With a love that lasts forever

Burning deep in our soul fission

Your hair it held no dread for me

As it danced in pink and green

Your dark eyes they pierce me still

To the place that is unseen

H Bomb, H Bomb

You fell from heaven

And gave me new clear vision

With a love that lasts forever

Burning deep in our soul fission

You sipped deep at mother’s ruin

And sang songs into the night

We burned the evening oil

And laughed together until light

H Bomb, H Bomb

You fell from heaven

And gave me new clear vision

With a love that lasts forever

Burning deep in our soul fission

You stood in grey beside me

On that fateful wedding day

You held my hand so tightly

And made my heart feel gay

H Bomb, H Bomb

You fell from heaven

And gave me new clear vision

With a love that lasts forever

Burning deep in our soul fission

Oh Helen you are my soul mate

Your love it makes me glad

I’ll always be here for you

The daughter I never had

H Bomb, H Bomb

You fell from heaven

And gave me new clear vision

With a love that lasts forever

Burning deep in our soul fission

A Tight Connection to My Heart

I have been meaning to update this blog since March and a whole summer has passed before I caught up with my own tail.

As regular readers will know, 2013 was an awful year for me. But 15 months on from the breakdown I am back where I feel alive, loved and comfortable.

And the support of my lovely family has been an immense part of this journey.

But it is the friends who were there for me when my life was at its bleakest who also really helped sustain me.

Many years ago I helped an old friend who was facing a tough time. He has now sadly passed away, but he left me a letter with the immortal words: “A man is known by his friends and not his enemies, I am grateful to count you as a friend.” Today his words chime clearly in my conscience.

You see, it is easy to know who you love and who loves you, but is less easy to appreciate who are true friends.

The events in Palestine this summer and elsewhere made me realise how much evil exists in this world. Even last Friday after the Scottish Independence Referendum we witnessed other forms of anger, thuggery and man’s inhumanity to man.

But there is still so much goodness and good people.

I could not have survived without such people.

So thank you for being there during my darkest hours: Laura E and Jane CW, Karen B, my friend of 22 years Judith G, a friend of even longer Jane A, my warmest buddy Nicola B, the lovely Kay D, members of my extended Outterside family including Lorraine, Stuart, Nicky and Karen, the timeless Sue C (is that 9 year-old son of yours really now 36!), more recent friends Kate M and Andy, Janine and Pete J, Catheryn and Colin B, Adele, Nat and David, the wonderful musical pals Sandra, Carolyn and Fiona.

Jenny and Caryn plus former work colleagues Marcello, Stephen, Craig C (you are an amazing mate) Rachel R, Sarah B, Sophie C and Karen A and especially the two Hannahs (LT and B) who both have the capacity to reduce me to tears by the unexpected honesty and true warmth of their words. And there are Vonny and Sam H, two amazing friends. Another friend by chance Julia (who is coming to stay next weekend) and of course Angela and Alex, who over the past two years have become the closest of friends… the number of phone calls and emails from Bristol have really kept me going!

Then at the end of last week, Juliet, my business advisor for the past nine months and a simply lovely human being became a good friend too.

It has always puzzled me how human chemistry works and how some people become such great friends while some others torture our souls.

It is almost as if you know who will be a friend when you first meet them… or is that only me?

And it is a bit like meeting life partners, you don’t necessarily need to have similar personalities for it just to work!

Psychologists believe there are 16 distinct types of personality in human beings, which in a nutshell are:

The Duty Fulfiller

Serious and quiet, interested in security and peaceful living. Extremely thorough, responsible, and dependable. Usually interested in supporting and promoting traditions and establishments. Well-organized and hard-working, they work steadily towards identified goals.

The Mechanic

Quiet and reserved, interested in how and why things work. Excellent skills with mechanical things. Risk-takers who they live for the moment. Usually interested in and talented at extreme sports. Uncomplicated in their desires. Loyal to their peers and to their internal value systems.

The Nurturer

Quiet, kind, and conscientious. Can be depended on to follow through. Usually puts the needs of others above their own needs. Stable and practical, they value security and traditions. Extremely perceptive of other’s feelings. Interested in serving others.

The Artist

Quiet, serious, sensitive and kind. Do not like conflict, and not likely to do things which may generate conflict. Loyal and faithful. Not interested in leading or controlling others. Flexible and open-minded. Likely to be original and creative. Enjoy the present moment.

The Protector

Quietly forceful, original, and sensitive. Tend to stick to things until they are done. Extremely intuitive about people, and concerned for their feelings. Well-respected for their perseverance in doing the right thing. Likely to be individualistic, rather than leading or following.

The Idealist

Quiet, reflective, and idealistic. Interested in serving humanity. Extremely loyal. Adaptable and laid-back unless a strongly-held value is threatened. Usually talented writers. Mentally quick, and able to see possibilities. Interested in understanding and helping people.

The Scientist

Independent, original, analytical, and determined. Have an exceptional ability to turn theories into solid plans of action. Long-range thinkers. Have very high standards for their performance, and the performance of others. Natural leaders, but will follow if they trust existing leaders.

The Thinker

Logical, original, creative thinkers. Can become very excited about theories and ideas. Exceptionally capable and driven to turn theories into clear understandings. Quiet and reserved, hard to get to know well. Individualistic, having no interest in leading or following others.

The Doer

Friendly, adaptable, action-oriented. “Doers” who are focused on immediate results. Living in the here-and-now, they’re risk-takers who live fast-paced lifestyles. Extremely loyal to their peers, but not usually respectful of laws and rules if they get in the way of getting things done.

The Guardian

Practical, traditional, and organized. Not interested in theory or abstraction unless they see the practical application. Have clear visions of the way things should be. Loyal and hard-working. Like to be in charge. Exceptionally capable in organizing and running activities.

The Performer

People-oriented and fun-loving, they make things more fun for others by their enjoyment. Living for the moment, they love new experiences. Interested in serving others. Likely to be the centre of attention in social situations. Well-developed common sense and practical ability.

The Caregiver

Warm-hearted, popular, and conscientious. Tend to put the needs of others over their own needs. Feel strong sense of responsibility and duty. Value traditions and security. Need positive reinforcement to feel good about themselves. Well-developed sense of space and function.

The Inspirer

Enthusiastic, idealistic, and creative. Able to do almost anything that interests them. Great people skills. Need to live life in accordance with their inner values. Excited by new ideas, but bored with details. Open-minded and flexible, with a broad range of interests and abilities.

The Giver

Popular and sensitive, with outstanding people skills. Externally focused, with real concern for how others think and feel. Usually dislike being alone. They see everything from the human angle, and dislike impersonal analysis.

The Visionary

Creative, resourceful, and intellectually quick. Good at a broad range of things. Enjoy debating issues, and may be into “one-upmanship”. They get very excited about new ideas and projects, but may neglect the more routine aspects of life. Generally outspoken and assertive.

The Executive

Assertive and outspoken – they are driven to lead. Excellent ability to understand difficult organizational problems and create solid solutions. Intelligent and well-informed, they usually excel at public speaking. They value knowledge and competence, and usually have little patience with inefficiency or disorganization.

I guess we all fit into one of those categories… or do we?

I reckon the psychologists have missed two important personality types: the Psychotic and the Complete Bastard.

Because while we are loved and supported by our life partners, soul mates and good friends, there are others who seem hell bent on ruining the lives of other human beings either at work, at home or any given social situation.

Now the two things I have learned from my breakdown and recovery is: (a) Don’t let the antagonists be part of your life in any way at all… leave them behind and (b) Embrace your friends and those who love you.

Simple stuff really and I guess you don’t need to be a psychologist to find that out. But don’t let it get to a breakdown before you do!

As this blog turns full circle I finish with an embrace for Helen, my confidante and witness at my wedding to Gill. She is the daughter and sister I never had, and my true soul mate.

She tells things as she sees them: “Fuck the bastards Nic, you are beautiful!” A man is known by his friends and not his enemies and I am a very lucky man indeed.