Jerseys, lightning, tea and sympathy

July 11, 2013 § 12 Comments

Yesterday I discovered that a very dear friend had done something wonderful for me. He got onto the Gautrain and rode all the way to Pretoria to fetch my jersey. I’d lent it to a mutual acquaintance, and was planning on getting it back at some point, but I’d mostly forgotten about it. I didn’t ask my friend to do this for me; I didn’t even know he had thought to do it until he handed me my jersey at a meeting we were both attending.

I was struck by the thoughtfulness and generosity of such a gesture, and grateful to have a friend like that. But it also got me thinking about friendship, because my friends have always been enormously important to me.

But here’s the thing – I can be a bit strange. If you’re my friend, here are some of the things you probably need to know.

1. Once I’ve decided I like you, you’re kinda stuck with me. You actually have to hurt me quite badly to get rid of me. Even if we don’t talk for ages, I’ll be happy to hear from you if the phone suddenly rings or you pitch up on my doorstep. Because I like you, and absence doesn’t change that.

2. I will pick up the phone from time to time, or send you a text out of the blue, because I sometimes get the sense that something is going on with you, and I act on that. Perhaps that seems a little woo-woo to you, but I usually have very good instincts, so I act on them, and I’m seldom wrong. But I’m not stalking you, I promise – I’m genuinely concerned and I want to help if I can.

3. You will always be welcome in my home – whether you just drop in for a cup of tea or join us for dinner, or need to stay over in our spare room. You are not imposing – just ask, dammit. I’ll be perfectly honest if it doesn’t suit me. If you’re lucky there’ll be cake; on other days you might just get tea and sympathy amidst the chaos. But if you’re willing to take me as you find me, pick up the phone and ask if you can pop around. If I’m home, chances are I’ll say ‘yes’.

4. I adore my girlfriends. At school I had some pretty special friends, and that has continued into adulthood. And I like nothing better than to meet them for breakfast and a couple of hours of solving the world’s problems, or picking up the phone for an hour-long catch-up wherever they might be in the world. Their warmth, wit and wisdom has seen me through some really tough times; I hope I deliver the same to them.

5. I adore my boy friends even more. For some reason, I’ve always had more male friends than female ones; something my husband had to get used to very early in our marriage, because I refuse to give them up. They are much more direct than my girl friends – they call a spade a spade, and they don’t let you wallow in misery when you’re being an ass. Need an illustration? One of my friends, when I text him because I’m drowning in self-doubt, responds with one word: “Tit.” That always makes me laugh, and puts things into perspective immediately.

And finally, a story, just to drive the point home.

Some years back, I was having a long phone conversation (on a landline) with a very dear friend of mine, who lived across town. A furious Johannesburg thunderstorm was brewing, and, having heard all the horror stories about lightning strikes through the telephone, I was a bit nervous about chatting to him, even though he assured me he was fine. I could hear the thunder crashing in the background on his side of the call.

And then, mid-sentence, the line went dead. I tried to phone back – nothing. I tried his cellphone – nothing. I knew his wife was out at a work function and his sons, both under five, would be fast asleep. I knew what had happened. He was lying on the floor in his study, unconscious, with a small spire of smoke rising from his chest.

So I did what any good friend would do. I jumped into my car and drove like the clappers to his house. I tried the doorbell – nothing. There was no movement behind the lit windows. There was only one thing for it – I climbed over the gate. As I got to the top, his Staffie came trotting out and gazed at me like the madwoman I was, wagging his stumpy posterior. His Bull Mastiff friend was not as pleased with finding me on top of the gate, and soon my friend came out to see what the commotion was. He couldn’t quite believe what he found. And of course, he was fine – the lightning had just taken out the phone and the doorbell, and his cellphone was on silent.

He helped me down from the gate – which was just as well, because I’m not the world’s most agile person, and going up was a lot easier than climbing down – and we went inside and had a good laugh over a cup of tea.

But if you’re my friend, that’s what you’re dealing with. Just so you know.

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