When I was at secondary school I had a best friend. She was called Judith and I thought that she was the loveliest and prettiest girl ever. I can go as far as saying that I probably had a bit of a crush on her. The thing was that being my best friend, I believed that I should be her best, and only friend. But I wasn’t. I was one of many friends, and to make it worse, she had another friend who often got more attention than me. We couldn’t possibly all be friends together and I often felt excluded. Typically, being a teenage girl everything became a bit of a drama and I would sulk or throw myself onto my purple nylon bedspread or bury myself under brushed nylon orange sheets and declare that my life was surely the pits. I became so jealous of my rival that on a school camping trip I tipped her entire tin of Charlie talcum powder onto her sleeping bag. I spent the next day peeling potatoes, but the satisfaction of seeing her cry was well worth the punishment. Years later when Judith announced she was getting married, I naturally assumed I was going to be a bridesmaid. We had always promised each other that when one of us married, the other would be the bridesmaid. Oh, the disappointment when rather than walking behind her down the aisle wearing a lacy Laura Ashley number, I received an invitation to the evening reception. I felt betrayed and rejected. I never spoke to her again!
Many years later and hopefully less shallow and much wiser, I am still horrified with myself by the way I tossed a friendship away just because I wouldn’t get to wear a pretty dress and carry a posy of flowers. Was that the sum total of a friendship that had lasted for over twelve years? I still cringe at the very thought of it!
Today, I value friendship immensely. It goes without saying that my family are incredibly important to me and I love every one of them to bits. We aren’t necessarily a tight knit family and weeks can go by without seeing each other, but we are happy, close and always supportive. But it’s my friends that I have most in common with, and they are the ones that I can easily spend hours sharing good and not such good times together with.
Until recently I was (and still am) very happy with my small circle of lovely friends. But my life focused very much around work and not much else, and I was getting itchy feet and wanted to discover life beyond work and home. Mr R wasn’t up for selling the house and dashing off to Dover to to enjoy an adventure of a lifetime in a campervan. He’s tall, I’m round and we would never have fitted comfortably in the confined space of a small home on wheels. The trip would be doomed, and by Brugges, over! Solo exploration was a no no as I don’t do slip roads, big round-abouts, duel carriageways or complicated road works. I could make it as far as Tetbury, but that was about it!
Thank goodness then for social media. I hit Twitter and Facebook big time. My world expanded in a virtual way, and I loved it. I also made friends. Not just virtual ones, but real ones. Friends I would never have met otherwise. We meet up once or twice a year and it’s like we only saw each other yesturday. We laugh, we cry, we talk for hours and we hug when it’s time to go home. I am so, so lucky to have found them. I’ve recently discovered Instagram and have “met” other Instagrammers whom I’ve clicked with would love to meet one day. Not everyone I know understands that it is possible to form online friendships. But it definitely is. It’s just a different way of finding friends.
Sixteen months ago I joined the WI. It took some guts to attend the initial meeting all by myself. I am quite shy really, and the thought of being in a crowded room with strangers was a bit daunting. I don’t do small talk. In fact I’m not a big talker full stop. But I am so glad I went and I’m so glad that I decided to become involved with running it. People wrongly mock the WI and it’s frumpy image of women of a certain age making copious quantities of jam and generally being do-gooders. Wrong on all counts! Without the WI I wouldn’t have met a wonderful group of women and made wonderful new friends in the process.
I really am very lucky to have an ever increasing circle of brilliant friends. They are forever supportive, make me laugh, get me thinking, encourage me to try new things, give me confidence. I hope that I am a good friend in return. They would be pleased to know that my days of tipping talcum powder over belongings are well and truly behind me, and if I get passed over as their bridesmaid, then I promise I’ll still be their friend!