Monday, 24 January 2011

In which I wax slightly sentimental

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

One of the things Sarah and I banged on about in Backwards was the idea that romantic love is not the only love. If you believe the poets and the pop singers and the playwrights, you would think that all other loves are distinctly second-rate; the only one that really counts is the swinging from lamposts, butterflies in the stomach, can't remember what your name is kind. Romantic love is the higher love; all the rest are mundane, workaday shadows of that.

I think this is, as the ladies of Absolutely Fabulous liked to say, a load of absolute buggery bollocks. There are so many other tremendous loves: family love, dog love, place love (I love this patch of Britain like a person), food love, book love. But if I were forced to choose one, I would pick friend love. No one ever wrote a sonnet about it, but in some ways I think it the highest love of all.

I went to stay this weekend with a man I met in my first week at university. Twenty-five years ago we sat in a tutorial given by a very old, venerable old don, on the mysteries of de Tocqueville, and we have been friends ever since. There were two other old friends there from that time, and it was like falling from a great height into a deep, luxurious feather bed. It's a pleasure so profound and keen that I can hardly find words for it.

It's the twenty-five years, I think. We've seen each other straight, and we've seen each other curly, as Nanci Griffith once sang. We loved each other when we were callow eighteen year olds who knew nothing but thought we knew everything, and the love is still there even though we have all been round the block and got a bit bashed up by life. We've seen each other through failure and triumph and the dull bits in between. It is the most luxurious, ineffable fondness, because all the flaws and foibles are known, and none of them matter a whit. In fact, the foibles and flaws are the whole point, because no one wants to be friends with flat white perfection.

Maybe the most delightful part of friend love is that it is disinterested. No one is demanding anything of the other: there is no requirement for sex, or the bringing up of children, or helping about the house. All that is wanted is that you be your absolute self, with the warts and all.

The thing that I adore the most is that nothing has to be explained. There is a shorthand in ancient friendships which is gloriously relaxing. Sentences often do not even need to be finished. Lines are easily read between. Stupid old stories and jokes and memories are resurrected as if we all saw each other yesterday. There is that lovely thing of picking up exactly where you left off, even if it has been months since you last saw each other. The very old friends get you in a way that no one else can, and sometimes I think all I want is to be got.

It was a weekend of wine and laughter. In these dark economic times, I do not take that for granted for a single moment. Perhaps I shall write a little sonnet about it, after all. (Except of course I have absolutely no feeling for the sonnet form.)

Pictures of the day are, you will be astounded to hear, mostly of trees and dogs. Oh, and also some buds.


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(You can see the whole posing thing is now completely out of control. Quite soon they will be requesting their own riders: red Smarties only, and bottled water flown in from Fiji.)

It was a slightly flat day, but the colours still managed to sing out:

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And then there were the buds, some of which are breaking into actual blossoms, which feels like a miracle to me:

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The dear old wall:

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And of course the hill, rather mystical today, in a penumbra of light:

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Lovely to be back. It sounds a most peculiar thing to say, but I rather missed the blog, and all the dear readers.


  1. This is lovely and just what I needed to read on a day of minor mishaps which were getting me all bent out of shape.

    The dogs can also make any day better. Lovely.

  2. So the weekend went well! Lovely trees, by the way. And you tell me you're not a romantic!

  3. Love this post. Love those friends.
    Great to have you and the Ladyships back :)

  4. Loved your post and agree completely with friend love as the most enduring, uplifting kind. And yes, I do think that, more than absolutely anything, we just want others to get us. Lovely insight. Beautifully written.

    Because I joined you during (your) winter, I have only just seen those stunning white paws. The Duchess looks every inch a character. Are they sisters? (And here I am presuming Pigeon is a girl.)

    The trees. The trees. Sublime...

  5. Siobhan - what a kind thing to say. I am so thrilled that the dear old dogs lightened your mood.

    Mrs - you see that I cannot stop with the trees. Slightly worrying.

    Anne - such a nice comment, as always. It is lovely to BE back.

    Michelle- thank you so much. To answer your question: the white paws are from being half collie, and I do think they are rather stunning. And yes, they are sisters, and very sweetly fond of each other. :)

  6. I loved this post and agree wholeheartedly. There is nothing like old friends who 'get' you. And every year that passes you treasure them more and more, as you realise how rare they are, and how long it takes to find people you are really in tune with – like truffle-hunting. I left the UK in the summer and leaving friends behind has been the hardest bit of all – realising that all the people I love best, beyond the four of us here, are across the sea, and that seeing them involves Ryanair, and a load of planning (which I am useless at). You expressed it all beautifully, as always.

  7. I just moments ago discovered this blog but would like to post in case by chance you should read it that I read your book Backwards in High Heels about 5 years ago and just adored every word in it. If it is possible to choose a favorite topic I especially appreciated your comments on the unspeakable value of female friendship. I am an avid reader but I am not a book collector. I check things out from the library and then if I really want to read it again, I'll borrow it from the library once more. Your book is one of maybe 6 that I have consulted often enough to own and that I give as a gift to those of my friends who are beloved enough to travel some years with me and who I know will appreciate it. Thank you very much for writing it and please know that your thoughts have meant a great deal to me and have offered immeasurable encouragement, realism, humor and perspective on the various situations I've encountered in life.


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