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.