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.
(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:
And then there were the buds, some of which are breaking into actual blossoms, which feels like a miracle to me:
The dear old wall:
And of course the hill, rather mystical today, in a penumbra of light:
Lovely to be back. It sounds a most peculiar thing to say, but I rather missed the blog, and all the dear readers.