just between friends


The tricky thing about the last column of the year is whether you should reflect on what was or look forward.

Regular readers will know that this year has been something of a trial for my family.

But should I bury it like the awful, rotten thing it seemed at times?

Would I have it wiped off the calendar as the year we didn’t have?

If someone had posed those questions four, five months ago I’d almost certainly have said yes.

But that’s the great thing about the passing of time: faced with a new reality, it shows you how to live it.

2013 will go down as the year I discovered friends.

They’ve always been there – at every stage of my life – but I’d never valued them near enough.

It’s partly a consequence of a childhood spent on the move to far-flung satellite and cable station towns where my father was deployed.

Unlike my shy, serious brother who suffered these frequent upheavals, I was highly adaptable and made friends easily … at the drop of a hat in fact.

And that, of course, was my own peculiar problem.

You couldn’t pack friends in a removalist’s truck – so you’d love ’em and leave ’em, with nary a backward glance and start again.

It probably didn’t help going into a profession where that was what you did to every one, every single day: crashing into people’s lives in the aftermath of disasters or violent crime, or picking at the threads of scandal until some sorry saga unravelled.

Encouraging people – in the midst of the most extreme circumstances – to open up, to talk to you and then lighting out when the next story came along was the job.

So much so that I once remarked to a friend who thought enough of me to invite me to a dinner party as one of the best friends she had made for each of the five decades of her life – a list of five people and their partners: “I don’t take prisoners.”

I know, I know. Shoot me now!

It’s actually quite hard to now be on the brink of 50 and suddenly to realise you have spent the best part of half a century being absolutely insufferable.

What changed? Well, truthfully, probably not me!

But, in 2013 I actually needed people and they were there … without once asking.

They flew in from interstate, they called on the phone, they minded the dog, they sent DVDs, CDs, books, emails, texts, wrote note cards, they invited me for meals, they offered trees under which I could safely park the campervan and plug into their mains, they wore masks, gowns and gloves to keep my husband safe and they cut me some slack at work.

But the craziest thing is that they would have done more … if we’d let them.

So, while my husband, who physically endured the awful, rotten things in 2013, may not yet be quite ready to agree, it was also a year of discovery and blessings.

Dionne Warwick so got it right.

That’s what friends are for.




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