Birthdays and friends

Birthday cards tell you so much about yourself. Pictures pick up on your interests (Andre!), your favourite colours (pink & purple), your age (insults), your sense of humour (nuns drinking wine), your bad habits (more wine drinking).

Home-made card from Alex and Dave

Then there are the sentiments about how much you mean to family and friends. I had a few this year addressed to ‘friend’. Cards make me reflect on friends I’ve lost contact with and new friends I’ve made. Friends are really important to me and I love the fact that when I look at my cards all stages and parts of my life are visible: from primary school through secondary school, university, teaching and later professional life.

I collect best friends and I’ve made a few in the last year. Lovely Sue who looked after me when I went to Hong Kong, took me to lunch and shopping and gave me carefully chosen gifts that reflected my interests. Then there is Rachel who started off as a client. We connected when we first met and spent more time talking about ourselves and what we had in common than the proposed work. A bond developed when we worked together over a few weeks. We rarely meet and connect by email. She tells me hilarious stories about the people she meets on trains and on platforms. Unlike me she talks to fellow passengers. I can understand as she has a lovely smiley face and warm accent. Naomi is also a client, the same age as my daughter Emma. Ostensibly we have little in common. For a start she’s fit and I’m not. But we get on and email helps the friendship flourish. Then there’s Lis, Ann’s friend. We share a love of books and reading and met for the first time in Hay. You’re never short of something to talk about if you read. There’s six weeks left of this year so time to make another new best friend.

Home-made birthday cards are always wonderful. One of the advantages of having creative family and friends (thanks Fran, Alex & Dave, Emma and Johnathan).

Family pick up on the funny side of your habits and personality. The one below replicates the cover of our local paper and makes fun of my current obsession with knitting – well there’s little time left before Christmas. Wish everything was as quick and simple as these scarves, knitted on Saturday for the little boys. And don’t they love em!

The birthday card/poster created by Johnathan and Emma

Birthday celebrations were over-shadowed a little by Ginny dog’s impending demise. 12 noon on Tuesday to be exact. Ginny’s been with the family since she was a puppy. Initially I had to be convinced by daughters and husband. Never having had pets as a child I didn’t see the point and didn’t want the work. Well I did once have a goldfish but my authoritarian father decided ‘pets no more’ when it jumped in Mum’s bowl as she was baking. As a parent of children who pleaded for a doggy companion I was persuaded by ‘a charter’ the girls drew up with a list of promises they made re their own responsibilities. So I relented and gradually got used to having an animal friend. In recent years Ginny has encouraged me to exercise, needing regular walks. Even my Dad found her presence comforting. In his last years when he came for Sunday lunch he would stroke her. I used to think there was an empathy with their situations that each understood.

But now she is old and immobile, sleeps all the time and only moves if she wants to be stroked. She has many of the other bad habits associated with old age. The girls – who only see her on visits home – were horrified when a visit to the vet’s was mooted. But she went – this morning – and the vet concurred with our judgment. So it’s tomorrow, at home. And Susie will document the whole process with photographs. The final moments of a good friend.

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