Friday, 25 November 2011

Not quite as thrilling on the page as it was in my head

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

The awful thing is that when I promise things, I feel I must deliver. But when I say to the Dear Readers, there shall be a tremendous meditation on friendship, I realise I risk the fatal mistake of raising expectations. A wise old shrink, of whom I was thinking only today as I walked past the Wigmore Hall, where we once listened to Louis Lortie play Chopin, told me that the number one, tip-top enemy of happiness was high expectations. (He did not, I think, mean be cynical and expect nothing; he did not want to encourage a race of pessimists. I think what he was suggesting was a cool dose of realism.)

So, when, two days later, I sit down to write, I think: what was it that I was going to say? And was it really so fascinating?

Then I think: ah, well, bash on, and hope for the best. I usually do hope for the best; it’s bred in the bone.

I had two particular lunches this week, with two very old friends. In the first one, we spoke of mothers and fathers, of children and relations, of families; we spoke, lightly, of grief and death. There were a few little diversions down memory lane, because we cannot resist those. The conversation touched, almost exclusively, on people; we spoke of feelings; we discussed the concrete and particular. It was all about the human heart.

In the second, we spoke of: the crisis in the Eurozone, Lehman brothers, the banking crash, what makes a successful business. We discussed ambition, and why it is that high intellect is almost always associated with political failure. We talked of the difference between Britain and America. We diverted, quickly and neatly, onto family matters, then moved back to Mrs Merkel and Mr Sarkozy. It all sounds very serious, but there were lots of jokes. (This particular friend is a master of irony.)

What struck me, afterwards, was the fact that the first lunch was with a woman, and the second with a man. Is that it? Were we simply living up to our stereotypes: the women speak of feelings, the men of world events?

Then I thought: no, that’s not it. The Playwright (man) and I never speak of politics. The Beloved Cousin (woman) and I sit up staring like loons at Question Time and This Week, and talk over breakfast of the state of the economy, as well as menu plans for the week.

What it is, I think, is simply that you have different friends for different things. One is not greater or better than the other; they are all vital for the jigsaw of our lives.

There is the one with whom you can discuss literature, the one who is obsessed with political matters, the one who loves abstract thought. There is the one who is utterly brilliant at gossip and the one who is a mistress of psychology and the one who challenges you and the one who will talk of domestic matters and the one who just makes you laugh so much you don’t know what your name is.

My friend The Entrepreneur, who has been with me since 1985, famously does not talk about emotions. The day after my father died, he called and said: You know I can’t do feelings, but I am going to ring each day and make you laugh. And that is exactly what he did. In that vivid season of mortality and sorrow, for ten minutes each day, he made me shout great belly laughs, which, looking back, is a sort of miracle.

So I think what I really wanted to say is that there are perhaps one or two who can do it all, but even with those extraordinary creatures there will be a gap, here and there. But mostly, you need different people for different things, and there is something wonderful about that.

You see, though, about the expectations? When I started having this thought, I decided it was a delightful insight into the human condition. In the end, it’s a terrible obvious observation. For some reason, though, I wanted to make it. Sometimes I just want to write things down, so they are marked in my mind. And, in the way of the blog, it’s always interesting to see what the Dear Readers think of the matter, and to gather the different perspectives, from New Zealand to the United States, and all points in between.

Or something like that.

The camera has not been outside today, but the Cousin and I bought some tulips and anemones, and arranged them, so I took many photographs of those:

25 Nov 1 25-11-2011 20-29-04

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Then I made The Pigeon pose in the back hall:

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Then the two smallest Cousins watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and I sang along to the bit about up from the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success, which I start to think is my theme tune, and the dear old Pidge went to lie down and listen:

25 Nov 20 25-11-2011 20-31-09.ORF

Look at her, with her paws delicately crossed, going moony over Dick Van Dyke.


  1. Utterly mediocre question from me: where is your dog bed from?! I admire it. On the matter of friendship, I think your observations are important. You friends sound precious and wonderfully discrete when you compare them. How lucky you are to have a full set of friends all representing different elements of the human condition. That's the view from Southern England ;-) Lou x

  2. A fine observation. Also nice to consider that each one of us contains within her own personality the ability to be several different kinds of friend at once; although of course we probably tend to specialize a little-- I am primarily a witty-complaints-receptacle to my closest friends (and happy to be so, see above re: witty), but occupy other minor positions in the ranks of other people's friends, based on the intersections of our interests. Sometimes I am surprised to remember, after not seeing a particular niche-friend for a long time, that I contain within me the ability to discuss dog breeds, or gardening, or what was happening in Guatemala in 1996 (the last time I really paid attention). I am extremely introverted (if let to be) but I do enjoy the mental refreshment of meeting those friends. One reason I love the internet and email is that you can have those unique conversations whenever you want, without being subject to the introvert's anxieties over awkward silences etc.

  3. PS Would like to be absolutely clear that in my comment I mean that my friends are witty when they complain-- not that I am.

  4. Enjoyed this post as ever, simply loved the dogs lying on their cushions/beds.

  5. Oh! The Pigeon has her tongue poking out in of the photos. That's new!

  6. Hmm. Please insert "one" between "in" and "of" in my comment above.

  7. Perhaps the idea of different friends for different aspects of one's life is not new, but this is the best I've seen it expressed. Not to mention, I love reading your descriptions of people, just as I loved reading sketches of your early life in Lambourne, what you see on a walk in Scotland, and anything else you say that makes me think. Often, I find that while there is one level of communication in what you say, there is yet another in how you say it. And to that, I say, "WOW."

    Now---assuming you are right in that you had even more thoughts on friendship that somehow disappeared when you got out of the car . . . how about you carry one of those little digital recorders for long drives when the brain has little to do but think? Not that you precisely forgot all that, but perhaps the memory of the little phrases that were banging away in your mind would send you into more reflections. I'm well satisfied with this piece, but if you have more, I'll read that too. ;-)

    Best to the lovely Pigeon.


  8. The colors of the tulip in that glass H U R T...they're so INTENSE!

    I love Pigeon showing just a wisp of tongue...

  9. The Pigeon has impeccable taste. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was my favourite film as a very young child. And I too mooned after Dick Van Dyke. xx

  10. But, but, but … your blog today crystallised what I have been feeling my way towards for years but never quite managing to formulate into words. Yes, yes! Different friends nurture different sides of each of us and THAT'S why we need friends. Really need friends. In the plural. But (whisper it) maybe that's also true for loves and lovers?

    On a more straightforwardly aesthetic note: is not your dog the most beautiful in the world? (I have a cat, not a dog. My cat is nice, I love her and enjoy her company. But a cat's eyes can never express what a dog's can.)


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