Friday, 28 October 2016

All the hats.

Today was a day of about twenty-seven halves. I had slightly bad news about one of my mares but decided I would remain stout of heart and hold on to hope. Something maddening happened over which I had no control and I don’t think I behaved entirely beautifully about it. (I hate getting cross with people and often resort to slightly phony, passive-aggressive responses instead. And that sound I hear is not the sound of my better angels flapping their wings.)

I was so cross that I rang up a dear friend and swore down the telephone. She laughed quite a lot. Then she said many wise and funny and touching things and was so interesting I forgot to be cross and started doubling over with laughter instead.

I spoke to two old friends this week, both men I have known since we were all eighteen. We are now all fifty. That’s a lot of water under a lot of bridges. It’s an awful lot of love. They are both exceptionally busy and I never call them because I always think that they are going to be doing work. In the end, I missed the first one so much that I simply called and said: ‘Are you in a meeting with forty people?’
‘No,’ he said. ‘I’m doing nothing.’
‘But you are so busy and important,’ I said, in some astonishment.
‘That’s what you think,’ he said, laughing his dear, familiar laugh.

We probably haven’t spoken for six months and we picked up as if it had been six minutes. He made me laugh and he made me think and he told me something so shocking that my mouth fell open in a cartoonish O. We talked about politics and betrayal and age and love and secrets. He is so riveting he makes my ears want to fall off.

Ring the old friends, I thought, walking through the trees. Ring them up and if they are in a meeting with forty people they can always say they will ring back. We’re all at the age now when we know there are more important things than meetings.

The more important things are: love, and history, and really getting it, and being in someone’s corner, and sticking through the thin and the thick, and thinking each other entirely splendid in every way. Since my mum died, I realise that I really, really need people who think I am splendid in every way. And the thing about the old friends is that they have seen me at my absolute worst, and they still think that. That’s the gift that is worth more than diamonds.

With new people, or with people you don’t know very well, you have to put on many hats. You have to put on your grown-up hat, or your reasonable hat, or your articulate hat, or your I know exactly what I’m doing hat. The old friends have seen all the hats, and don’t care. They love you with the hat and without the hat.

Ring them up, I think, because they make everything, every single solitary thing, better. 


  1. Thinking positive, completely over-the-top optimistic thoughts about your mare.

    As for hats, that immediately brings to mind a favorite book written (& wonderfully illustrated) by Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel), "The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins".

    SPOILER ALERT: Set in feudal times, the story begins in the Kingdom of Didd, when King Derwin is riding through a street past peasant protagonist Bartholomew Cubbins. Ordered to remove his hat, according to the laws, Bartholomew does so, but another hat mysteriously appears; when he attempts to remove this one, yet another one appears; as this continues, the hats begin to grow in extravagance and beauty from the 451st hat onwards. Ultimately the 500th hat, studded with massive gems and gilding, leaves Bartholomew's head bare. Stunned by the beauty of the hat, King Derwin grants him reprieve and trades him 500 gold coins for the 500th hat.

    (According to Wikipedia)Geisel, who collected hats, got the idea for the story on a commuter train from New York to New England while he was sitting behind a businessman wearing a hat; the passenger was so stiff and formal that Geisel idly wondered what would happen if Geisel took his hat and threw it out the window. Geisel concluded that the man was so "stuffy" he would just grow a new one.

  2. I hadn't heard from a very good friend of mine for a few months. Every time I thought that I needed to give him a quick call to check that all was okay, there was an important email or work call to deal with. Two weeks ago I went to his funeral, feeling like a terrible friend for never making that effort to call.

    You are absolutely right, ring old friends, ring new friends, always make time for a five minute chat - because it is always worth it, for both parties.

  3. Absolutely, spot on! I so agree. I find I need my friends so much nowadays, even just to laugh for a bit. We, in the USA, are so tired of the election dragging on for so long we need time for fun and friendship. Great post! And, you are right, our friends are never too busy, just like I'm never too busy. xx's

  4. I have not yet been able to bring myself (for myriad personal reasons) to read the book but Decca Aitkenhead wrote along the lines of - if you have neither a mother or a partner, then who has your best interests in mind? This resonated so much with me, as did your post. Thank you for being so open. I wish you man, .many, many happy "old" friend conversations. Personally, I have a huge smile afterwards.


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