Friendship is rare

15 May

I started work on this one  a few weeks back, and then drifted away… but you know its still as relevant now as it was then, so I’ve tidied it up and am posting for your derision. Feel free to complain/mock/goad or strop as appropriate…

It was my birthday this week [well, it was when I started writing… bear with me]. And last week I was out for a friend’s engagement party. And I’ve been thinking about friends. Good friends, bad friends, stalker friends, girlfriends and everything inbetween and outside. You see these last few months friends have been few and far between, and yet those that have been around have often surprised me in the most positive ways possible and I remain eternally thankful for their attention.

Where to start? Well maybe the engagement party. I won’t say much on it, but I was thrilled that the party finally happened, because it means my oldest friend (in terms of length of time of friendship, not in age…) is finally taking the plunge and committing. Oh, and I’m best man which means I get to dress up… a bit…

What disappointed me were the number of so-called friends of the happy couple who simply bailed before the evening. It struck me as particularly mean, and I was ever so glad I had turned up after all. The handful of us that celebrated probably spook volumes more than had there been a clatter.

I’ve always found birthdays to be particularly sober affairs, rather depressing in their banality and this year promised to be even bleaker. When I’ve tried to assemble chums they’ve always had other things to do, and so I’ve taken to sticking my head down and bumbling through alone. This year I didn’t even have the excuse of having to do something with a partner – that usually gets me out for a bit at least.

And yet I was humbled by the generosity and warmth shown by some relatively new friends, who have been brought together in part by rambling exchanges via Twitter. Having been at a real emotive low (I’m prone to the dark moods), 1800Dave, Dawniepants and LesleyDH (to use their twitter handles) warmed the cockles of my hardened heart by coming out for drinkies and gabs. That we’d only been getting to know each other and yet they made the time and effort restored much of my faith in people.

I guess in a way we all look for a sense of belonging, even the most anti-social of us does so really. I’ve been struck over the last few months by just how many of us have found our communities of friends thanks to the internet and social networking too. Not surprised exactly, but struck. And then I realise that many of my good friendships have been formed at least in part thanks to the net too.

And of course there are friends I haven’t spoken to in years who the internet has allowed me to connect with once again – like Jules, who I hadn’t seen for about ten years, and then thanks to Facebook bumped into him again in Edinburgh, which I now do most times I’m over visiting my brother. Or again thanks to Facebook, as I updated my status on the way back to Borehamwood when I was researching last summer and I got a message from Andrew, who I hadn’t seen in a decade, telling me he lived in Borehamwood and would I like to meet up for drinks. Ten years had passed and yet we were able to pick up again, and meet repeatedly. So are these good friendships? Or bad?

I think that some of the best friends I can leave for months or years and we pick up just where we left off.

Kiss of the Vampire (German poster)

And then there’s my other dear friend who I won’t embarrass by gushing about, but who has been a rock and a proverbial brick wall to fire my stresses at the last couple of years. I see them often, and had it not been for them I would have lost the plot months ago…

The internet is not always so safe a place. I’ve picked up a few psycho stalkers along the way. Some in the ‘mostly harmless’ category, and some in the ‘if you meet them in the flesh, bring a can of mace’ category. I don’t know why they follow me around, but they do. Maybe you have one too?

Because of the work I do, I have a moderate public persona, which means that from time to time I do low-key meet and greets. Some of the people are lovely and have become friends. Some are clearly insane. Working out which are which isn’t always as easy as you might think….

Several years ago someone took the trouble to write a lovely handwritten letter to me and post it to my home address (which back then was readily available online… I take the precaution of using an alternate address for mail these days). The letter had no return address or signature. But it detailed in some detail the climactic ‘orgy’ sequence of Kiss of the Vampires – a 1960s Hammer horror film. It verged on obsessive pornographic slash fiction. I was disturbed. That they felt the need to share, and send it to me, and to do so anonymously. Help!

It is with some surprise then that on the way back from the engagement party having skipped the crowd early and making my way to the bus home I was stopped by a group of three 20-somethings for directions, and long story short, got talking and ended up back at the Merchant Hotel drinking with them into the small hours. A lovely group, but any other day I would have ran off. You see, I’ve experienced the weirdos. Its why I don’t like people in my home. Its why I try and do meetings somewhere neutral and public. Its why I try not to go solo to things. We gabbed and drank and it was lovely. It was also random. A fleeting possible friendship which will probably never be followed up.

Which brings me to Formspring. Hmmm. You see, my formspring page has been filled with strange questions relating to my lovelife (lack of) and ostensibly some ladies (?) who according to others, clearly have crushes on me. I’ve yet to take any of it terribly seriously, whilst being honest with my responses. I find the whole concept bizarre (I have self-esteem issues, oh, and trust issues) and sometimes a little too much like crazy stalker territory. Maybe its the anonymity that bothers me… just be honest and say, don’t hide away. I’ve certainly had crushes on people, and I’ve been interested in others, but I’ve seldom done anything about it. But I don’t think I’d rely on anonymity. You never get a truthful answer (because let’s be honest, it really does depend on who is asking before you give a full response – the difference between having to let someone down, or jumping up and down a la Tom Cruise, shouting ‘yes please’), and the guarded answer you receive may provide the wrong information anyway.

As an addendum to this musing, I think about the issues of debates – a topic which has come back to bite me since my last post here. You see, my words have received a mixed response – ranging from full agreement, to marginal criticism, to outrage. My best friends and I can debate into the small hours on any number of topics and never reach agreement. It can get heated, and we will ALL say things that the rest of us don’t agree with. But we are friends, and we’ve always been able to agree to disagree. It strikes me that debate and discourse are crucial to a friendship, as are the responses that we make to same. I’ve been furious with friends on occasion, but we never came to blows and we always hook up again. And it works the other way. Thankfully we’ve always been able to call each other up and out. My oldest friend vehemently disagrees with my religious/faith philosophy – we are diametrically opposed, and he is passionate about his disbelief. He posts regularly on the subject, and is able to attack my views, and yet our friendship remains tight after nearly 20 years. There’s no pussy-footing around either, he goes straight for the jugular. We disagree, but the friendship overrides everything else. It must do. I was there when he picked up his engagement ring, and I’ll be there to see him into married life.

True friends are hard to find…

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One Response to “Friendship is rare”

  1. yearontheroad June 9, 2010 at 8:28 am #

    Friends appear when you need them and in ways you never expected. You can sit around wondering just how many friends you actually have, then suddenly when something happens they all suddenly appear in the most heart warming ways.

    I am currently planning to walk around the UK and Ireland for a year without any money and blog about it. As soon as I decided that friends were coming from everywhere with the kindest offers of help and company and advice. It was an eye opener.

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