It’s all about friendship, really. How many of us have a friend who has been there through thick and thin, who even though you don’t see them for years, you can just pick up with where you left off. No recriminations, just pleased to see you. Someone you can e-mail when you need a moan, or when you need to reassure. Someone with whom you have shared memories that go back, it feels, to the dawn of time. If you have such a friend then you are truly lucky.
I have one. Her name is Sarah, and we met at school, sixty years ago this month. We were very young, apprehensive at starting a new school, and both short-sighted. It was this optical flaw that brought us together. I couldn’t see the blackboard from the back of the class, and she had an empty desk beside her towards the front. When the teacher saw me squinting through a tiny hole in a ruler – through which, I’d discovered I could see perfectly – he moved me to sit beside Sarah.
Like I said, there have been ‘thicks and thins’, ups and downs, delights and traumas in both our lives – I almost lost her twice – and for a while, we drifted apart, but in those childhood years, we played together, jumping imaginary ponies over broom handles perched on chairs, and wrote stories together typed out on my mother’s Olivetti typewriter. We pushed each other around her lawn in her grandmother’s bath chair and delighted in depositing each other into the prickliest of holly bushes. We kept fancy mice together and sent them all over the country to mouse shows by train. We had dogs together and turned them into show jumpers. I taught her to ride, and we kept our ponies together and explored the countryside for miles around our homes.
We became the sisters neither of us had but with less bickering. We went to each other’s weddings, and though we’ve never managed to live very close to one another thereafter, we visited, wrote letters, had outings with our children and courtesy nieces and nephews and generally enjoyed one another’s company. As our children grew up and the physical distance between us became greater – I live in West Wales and she in County Durham – we revisited our mutual love of writing.
She started it. I blame her unreservedly. To begin with, she would send written pages of a story – her handwriting is legendary, and I’m still the only person who can read it. Even she struggles. I would send them back with comment, and she’d write – did I say write? – she’d scrawl a letter followed by a squiggle or a snake and return them. it was a lengthy and protracted process that would take a couple of weeks for a chapter. The advent of the computer and e-mails was a godsend. Chapters arrived by e-mail, which I could read – I mean actually read – in Word, post comments and corrections in tracking and return the same day, sometimes within the hour. Then one day, I decided to have a go at this writing lark myself, and I was hooked.
Now, we exchange chapters, comment on and edit each other’s work, proofread, and polish. Together we have climbed a Kilimanjaro-like writing mountain and learnt such a lot about our craft and the marketing that inevitably goes with it. We e-mail each other most days, even if some of our conversations are cryptic. We’ve developed our own shorthand. Rec means received. TY is thank you. RFS is remove full stop, ASC is add semi-colon, and so the list goes on. Hugs is self-explanatory. It’s all that’s needed. We understand one another – mostly…
But enough. All I really wanted to say was ‘Thank you, Sarah, for sixty years of unfailing friendship and unconditional love.’
And here’s to a few more. (We both plan to live to a hundred.)
Sarah has a new WordPress blog at https://sarahstuartweb.wordpress.com/
Sarah Stuart’s novels can be seen at Amazon They’re really rather good.
There, she’ll forgive me now for embarrassing her…
or maybe not… Maybe, she’ll murder me in her next novel ‘Two Face the World’.