Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Friends ... the really old ones

I was lucky when I was a teenager, I had some incredible friends and this morning two of them wrote ... from very different places.

Paul is on a ship 4 days out from Hobart, returning from time spent down on the ice at the South Pole, and Fiona was writing from back home in New Zealand. I love hearing from them and it's pure chance that they both wrote at the same time.

They are stunningly modest people who live interesting lives. Fiona married way back when ... as we say in Kiwi-speak, and lives on a farm on top of a hill that looks out over both the town I grew up in and the city I later lived in and then there's the Pacific Ocean and Otago Harbour completing the scenes that she lives with each day. She owns a business with her husband and is still riding horses, just as she was back when we met at 13.

Paul turned Aussie on us after departing for other worlds back in the 80s. He's been all kinds of things but these days he's mostly a helicopter pilot, with a seperate business he has also built over time. That is, when he's not swanning off to the South Pole.

Antartica ... well think that was a bit of a mid-life crisis. I can't be sure, having never experienced one ... he's a huge number of days older than me.

David, another of that way back then crowd, emailed a few days ago ... questioning my claim not to have owned leather boots since I was 11 years old.

David's the photographer, the rather superb and dedicated photographer, who is building a most delightful life with his family after a life lived in Africa and ecetera. Anyway, a flurry of 'boot mails' were exchanged over a couple of days, as I tried to explain that I haven't owned 'knee-high' leather boots since I was small. I was seriously mocked and I do believe he may have had the last word on that one.

But mocking aside, this old friend was writing to advise me on setting my camera to'raw', making my images big enough for the 'next time' some advertising agency wants to buy one of my photographs.

I seem to be the wastrel and the wanderer. I have my family, my stories, my photography and my friends but no assets or money beyond my beloved camera and Flintstone-era laptop ... the one that I pedal, it really is a kind of booting up in the mornings.

This morning I realised again how lucky I was to know these guys when I was young, and how lucky I am to still know them ... even if Paul's political views have become so different to mine. There have been a couple of fierce disputes that we've survived, testament to a friendship that grew a long time ago and the fact our friendship is based on more than our political beliefs.

So hey guys, a coffee toast to the people we were and the people you are now.
And thanks for your friendship.


Peter said...

You're a lucky woman Di, having being able to hold on to all those childhood friends, as friendships that survive these distances and lifestyle changes are rare.

I lost touch with most of my childhood friends, partly due to frequent moving but mostly due to the fact that I didn't realize way back then that the older one gets, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

I neglected contacts I should have treasured, although sometimes there is a "pure chance" factor one cannot influence.

My "Friends ... the really old ones" were Laurent, who unfortunately lost the business he built. Emile was luckier: he moved to France, but stopped writing as we grew apart.

But in general, I feel that cities (like Antwerp) tend to focus on "acquaintances", as city living has become hectic and real friends have become a rare commodity.

woman wandering said...

Thanks Peter, I felt lucky yesterday because you're right when you say that we don't know to treasure what we have way back when we are young.

Antwerp has been the most difficult of cities for me, in terms of people. I think you might have captured the problem when you wrote of the focus being on 'acquaintances'.

For the first time, I have struggled to make good friends with the locals, simply because they seem to get what they need from social contact outside the house well, or because they don't like me ;)

I had dinner in Brussels last night and we were all expats except for the lone Belgian who called in much later and I realised that here in this country, I've turned towards other foreigners now ... having all but given up on finding close friends in my new city.

It's sad.