Friends and a Farewell

Your blog,’ admonishes my dear friend, Julia, gently, ‘is appearing far less frequently. I settle down for a bit of ‘Chris Time’ and you’re not there!’. It feels a bit limp to say I’ve been busy when everyone’s busy now. A glance round the table at The Thursday Girls - my lovely friends of twenty-eight years - gives a snapshot of what we’ve been juggling between us; family illness, ageing parents, grown-up children, separations, reconciliations, bereavements, a house move, a house renovation, job applications, careers, new relationships, new babies, weddings and every emotion from the depths of despair to utter joy. 

Today though, the five of us are making the most of this rare opportunity to get together. After a lunch filled with laughter, Ann suggests a walk in the bright sunshine. The bright perishing-cold sunshine, as it turns out, in a truly bitter wind along a path which is suddenly crowded with hulking great schoolboys on a cross country run! Defeated by the savage temperature and the pounding of enormous feet, we retreat inside for a quick cup of tea before returning to our normal duties. I say goodbye with an armful of presents, a head full of memories and a heart grateful for the presence of these women in my life.

I’ve been in London attending a Romantic Novelists’ Association committee meeting followed by the Winter Party. To be honest, I used to feel daunted by RNA parties, but these days I realise that my fears of being a wallflower are groundless as someone is always happy to chat. On this occasion I was delighted to meet on-line friends for the first time, like new Choc Lit author Kathryn Freeman. It was lovely too, to catch up with friends who were so supportive on my journey to publication, writers Debbie White  and – for the first time after seven years of on-line friendship - Norma Murray.

Thinking about friendship has reminded me of Hong Kong and these three little maids from school one of whom drew the short straw of running up to ask very shyly but in perfect English whether Tom and I would take part in their survey. In return I asked permission to take their photo – isn’t it lovely? I wonder if they’ll still be friends in twenty-eight years’ time.

Another postscript from Hong Kong follows my trip to the fortune teller who having cast several sideways glances at Tom and checking three times to make sure he was really my husband, foretold that he would be a professor… well, perhaps that is written in the stars but this week Tom did get his exams results ... and, I’m very proud to say, gained his MA with Distinction!

And finally, to a friend who’s no longer with us, taken far, far too soon by cancer. This blog is dedicated to the memory of author Richard Masson. Richard and his wife, Margaret, and Tom and I met when we were taking shelter from gales and big seas at Ramsgate. Richard and Margaret were kind enough to admire our wooden yacht, but theirs, Hephzibah, was a real beauty. Richard and I were aspiring authors then, dreaming of being published. We both got there in the end, but I’m saddened that Richard didn’t have longer to enjoy his success. Thanks for all your support, Richard. May you rest in a peaceful harbour.

Our boat, Veryan, at Ramsgate


Jane Lovering said…
Ah, friends old and new - it's a good job that we don't, like Sheldon Cooper, have a 'friendship limit', with a 'one in, one out' policy, isn't it? Friendship, like its close cousin love, is limitless - which is great, because I've made so many new friends recently through Choc Lit and the RNA, my 'old' friends would be cast aside!
Fabulous blog, Chris, and love the pictures...I used to live near Veryan in Cornwall, so I did smile at the name...
Chris Stovell said…
I agree, Jane... except perhaps when it comes to partners! How fab that you used to live near Veryan - we heard two explanations for the name of the boat; one, of course, was that she was named after the village and the other that she was named after an innkeeper's daughter which sounds more romantic to me! And thanl you, m'dear!
Very moving post, Chris, and beautifully written...:)It was good to catch up with you in London....really good! There's an old saying - to have a good friend you have to be one - and you are that...:)
Chris Stovell said…
Ah, thank you so much, dear Linda. What a very kind thing to say.
Chanpreet said…
Life does have a funny way of getting in the way of plans we've made. I think it's lovely that you're still good friends with people you met almost three decades ago. It's hard to hold onto those relationships.

As a fellow introvert I think it's
great you went to the RNA meeting and party and had a great time. It can be hard for us to do. Insecurities are small things that play such big roles in our lives.

I'm also sorry to hear about the passing of your friend. Cancer is such a monster. I'm glad he was able to achieve his goal of publishing his book.
Chris Stovell said…
Chanpreet, we're completely different characters, my Thursday Girls and I, but the chemistry between us has worked through the years - I love them all very much and feel very lucky that we found each other.

I'm glad it's not just me - I often feel like staying at home rather than face a room full of people but it's always lovely talking to friends once that initial hurdle of shyness has been overcome.

And thank you, I feel very sad for Richard's family and think it's very cruel that he didn't have longer to enjoy his writing success.
Frances said…
Chris, thank you for your lovely messages to me.

Huge congratulations to Tom on his degree with distinction. And the picture that heads your post is a gem.

Time is a strange concept...I think it becomes elusive, yet very friendly with every passing day.

Having long time friends is a gift that we do give to each other. The links get more complex, but this can add to their strength. Or so think I.

I send you all condolences on the loss of your friend Richard. How good that you all did share the sailing and the writing and probably lots of conversations and laughter, too.

Flowerpot said…
What a lovely post, Chris - full of all sorts of emotions. I have a few friends like your Thursday girls and they are so very precious - what would we do without our close girlfriends? x
Flowerpot said…
PS I am so sorry to hear about Richard. What else can I say except that yuou can't argue with cancer. Lovely to see a picture of Veryan though.
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