After a gruelling shift I walk down the lane in the violin-case dark to my little apartment. My footsteps quicken. I peep through the window and there they are, waiting expectantly.
They are greeted in order of seniority. Breeze (aka Tallulah Wiggles), whirls like a top waiting to be picked up. China hasn’t quite mastered the full-spin so she does a ballerina three-quarter turn.
Molly, agitated with delight, runs into the other room and picks up a toy, squeaking it excitedly. She promenades around the apartment, beeping it importantly while I prepare their late-night supper
After half an hour in the company of my pups – interesting how God is dog spelled backward – the cares of the day boil down to sediment. Often times I will look up from my computer keyboard or a book to see Breeze gazing at me with the consummate devotion of a Believer.
I am so humbled by her adoration that it makes me a better self to be. Those who know me will testify that I am the best Pom Mom in the world. While I wear schmattas from the Gap, my little girls have real shearling coats. At night, when the last tweet has been sent, the peace plant has been spoken to and I am about to switch off my bedside light, I look at the three small furry girls sleeping soundly on their designated areas on the bed, and I think my life is as beautiful as a Beethoven Sonata.
I may have made questionable judgements about those I thought were friends. I have, in main had rotten luck with men. But my pups fill me with a kind of constant ecstasy. Everything they do amuses, entertains or comforts me. How many people can you say that about?
In my self-imposed exile in America the silence from some of my soi-disant friends has been deafening.
Of course there have been rare exceptions. One friend and her daughter came to see me in America. They arrived shortly after 8 am on 9/11. As they drove across the Verrazano Bridge in New York they saw the Twin Towers collapsing. We will be forever friends – even if months go by without us speaking.
I am blessed to have a friend in Missouri. Miss Kate and I speak three or four times a day. She is the remote witness to my life. As unselfish as the wind, she listens to the trivial details of my life and we laugh together. She is a friend for all seasons. My young friend Gazza (now living a short gallop away from Blenheim Palace) continues to surprise me with his intuition and generosity.
Great friendships don’t happen in flashes. They ignite slowly and burn steadily until a great fire of warmth wraps you in its cloak.
Perhaps I have erred in my choice of friends because anyone can be a friend when you are at the top of your game and you can provide food and drink and amusing banter.
It is easy to find people who will kill time with you.
The trick, I think, is to find those who wish to live time with you.
On Monday night I took the Poms to my friends Dee and her husband. The plan was to let the pups run in Yang Chin meadow. Four Temple dogs and four Poms. It was a sight to warm any dog-lover’s heart. We drank champagne at the fireside and Dee played the harp.
Later, much later, on arrival home, I thought I had lost China. Immediately I felt like a switchboard with all my nerves on Emergency Alert.
I raced up and down the sleeping streets calling her name. China! China! Chahooey! Chahooey!
Panic-stricken, I called Dee. I knew that although night’s shutter board was still down, she would hop in her car and help me search for my child. Now THAT’S a friend.
In the end, China was found sitting placidly between the screen door and the wooden door.
Of course we use the term “friend” loosely. I have friends with whom I natter happily but would never dream of calling if I was in real trouble. It would be an imposition.
I have “first responder friends” – those who are on speed-dial for when I have to be dragged to hospital.
I have a friend in Australia who has been my confidante for more than thirty years. At the outset of our friendship, I fancied I was something of a mentor to him. As the years passed the roles have reversed entirely. Although considerably my junior, now it is to him I turn for life-advice. It is his email addie that I search for and press send when I have good news.
I haven’t seen him since he lived in a marvelous villa in Bantry Bay and I lived in an apartment the size of a throat lozenge in Clifton.
But I know that when I see him we will take up like a piece of knitting circumstances forced us to lay aside. Every stitch will be in place. We will remember the intricate pattern and our souls will continue to knit together.
If I were to draw up a manifesto on the rules of friendship it would start as follows:
1. Your friend is for your growth and for the deepening of your spirit.
2. If your friend intentionally damages your spirit this friend will also coil around your limbs and crush you.
3. Friendship is about sharing – laughter, pleasures and the little things because in the little things, “the heart finds its morning and is refreshed”.
Kahlil Gibran wrote one of the best explanations of friendship ever:
Your friend is your needs answered.
He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
And he is your board and your fireside. For you come to him with your hunger.
And you seek him for peace.