Someone once mentioned the ‘deep contentment of the marriage bed’ – I think it was Mrs Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. There is something similar about the comfort of an old friendship. I spent the evening with an old friend tonight and was constantly reminded of how comfortable it is to be with such a one. Of what it means to be in the company of someone who knows you so very well that really there’s absolutely no point in showing off, pretending to be this or that, of showboating in any way…well you can if you like, anything is allowed… and will usually be indulged… it’s just pure luxury to park off with such a relaxing presence. There’s an old saying: “A friend is a present you give yourself.’
It’s true that you give yourself that present. Making a friend of someone you meet, is a decision. A friend doesn’t always ‘just happen’, though I have the pet theory (yes… and it is mine) that the best friends are recognised, not made. This is sometimes true but not always. Some friends are cultivated over time, because often when you first meet them, you’re in a certain mood, perhaps certain prejudices are holding sway and… you just don’t see them right away, for what/who they really are. Their value starts shining through after a time, if you’re lucky to be given another chance, because it is an act of will to love, and it is also usually a decision to ‘like’ as opposed to ‘feeling nothing for’.
A new friend is like a new lover – there are districts and regions of that personality to explore, and it’s all new and exciting, like an extended road-trip. But how nice to come home to what is familiar and comforting, to where you are known and understood and don’t have to explain yourself. Where there is a common language, a common culture or at least a history, where place-names and people-names throw up a common reaction and visions and memories are part of the same family.
I send a fat little cloud of affection to all my old-shoe friends, on and off the planet. You are dear to me. Just saying…