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John Haynes’ photograph of the week: Not I, by Samuel Beckett July 30, 2009

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Quote/word of the week July 30, 2009

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‘The human face is truly like that of a god in some Oriental theogony, a whole cluster of faces side by side, but on different planes and never all visible at once.’  Marcel Proust: In Search of Lost Time

WORD OF THE WEEK: Anacoluthon, (1856)  A want of grammatical sequence, the passing to a new syntactical construction before the original one is completed.  

I fear that like Proust's  Albertine I am inclined to anacoluthons, although I hope not to lies.

'The cruelty was turned on me. Not as a refinement of style, but to cover her  (Albertine) careless lies she used unexpected leaps of syntax which resembled what grammarians refer to as anacoluthon, or something like that...I wished I could remember the beginning of her  sentence so as to decide myself when she shifted ground what the ending would have been. But as I had been listening for the end I could hardly remember the beginning...'  Marcel Proust:  The Prisoner And The Fugitive



Lucy the vizsla … and other things. July 29, 2009

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Lucy, the Vizsla and Piero di Cosimo’s dogs

Lucy is my/our Hungarian Vizsla dog and she provokes a daily despair in me to think that when people see her circling the park they assume she is a puppy. She is almost eight. I celebrate each day of Lucy’s life.

dog 2Our family has always loved Vizslas for their extravagant and rust-beechen colouring; their amber-gem eyes. They have claws and noses to match, and wild, willful and opinionated but sensitive natures. They are living and mortal works of great art.  They remind me of, and rival, Piero di Cosmo’s painting of his nameless red dog. Vasari reported that Piero ‘lived more like a beast than a man.’

Our first vet was Hungarian; she, disparagingly, called them ‘A lady’s dog’, although their athletic frames are lithely fleshed with brisk muscle. They were originally carriage dogs, which back in Hungary, were typically purchased in pairs.

Our vet, Judith, who was an exceptionally glamorous woman, lived in Pimlico with several eastern cats, an amazing collection of antique Hungarian jewelry – which she once put on for us when we took her to the theatre – but which stopped happening as soon as we had children which irritated her, and whose premises are now The London Emergency Veterinary Centre.

Judith had her own emergencies. There was her exotic collection of chinchillas that too often fell off their perches at an unexpectedly loud sound, or intrusion and died of heart attacks, which is not uncommon in caged chinchillas. Then, she decided, mistakenly as it turned out, but tragically too late for any help, that she had a self diagnosed cancer. She didn’t tell anybody but gathered her two favourite cats into her arms, sat down at her desk and took a lethal overdose of morphine. All that happened long before Lucy’s time and when I was still young enough to be mortally shocked. Judith always did amaze me.

Our first Vizsla was called Ali and he travelled down from Scotland in a twined shopping basket with a label tied around his neck warning us that all Vizslas love to eat and roll into dead things which, despite their elegance, they do.  Ali watched our son Alex arrive and grow up, suspiciously at first, but as soon as he learned that the highchair was also a food depository their devotions were complete. Ali’s much later and almost timely death was also Alex’s first experience of meaningful but unexpected loss, from which he has never entirely recovered. (To be honest, Ali was initially called Alexander as we thought he was going to be the nearest we ever got to having a son, so we had to create an alias after Alex managed to join us.)

When Lucy arrived at six weeks old, she was born into a prizewinning litter of ten who were weaned and separated from their mother at four weeks, we were determined that she would be a proper dog, unlike her predecessors, and sleep in the kitchen rather than inside of our bed.  Alex and I both took work breaks and devoted three full time weeks to acclimatize her to kitchen life. To begin with either one of us slept downstairs to be close enough to her pen to reassure her that all would be well. Alex complained he was developing a post-natal depression due to sleeplessness and the high-octane level of her relentless attachment demands.

Our real troubles only began later when we moved on to the next stage of separation and left her alone for the night. Even the current doyenne of militant child regimes, that uncrowned successor to Truby King, Ms Jeanna Ford would have complimented our rigour.

Lucy did not: she didn’t scream for one night, or three. She screamed like a banshee, or an uprooted mandrake, for three weeks. Each morning, I would go down to her pen and find her covered in her own excrement; each morning I would, delirious with both exhaustion and joy, gather her into my arms and bathe her in our bath.  One morning, I couldn’t bare it any longer and Lucy has slept deep in our bed ever since. Unlike any of our other dogs, she has never, ever, been left without the company of a human member of her family pack for more than four hours.

Vizslas have an unique habit which, in different contexts, can express their anxiety, joy or crisp reprimand: without warning, they leap up beside you and seize your wrist, which is then clamped by a soft but determined mouth. Heaven. Their other divine attributes are too numerous to list.

I have always held the idea that one joy of having dogs is that they, unlike us human animals, can, if painfully, be replaced. I am not sentimental about dogs and I envy the way they, unlike humans, are not dependent on parliament ratifying new laws that might, eventually, allow its electorate legally to decide when we have suffered enough.

So long as you have insurance – and your vet stays around –a dog will receive more prompt and concerned care than most humans. Vets, unlike most doctors, still know what whole bodies get up to and look like. Vets are, in emergency, even legally expected to step in and treat us humans: who are, after all, animals! Whereas, it has is recent years, become an offence for a non-specialist paediatric surgeon to operate on a child under sixteen!


We have a brilliant vet, Dr. Frank Seddon, who has one practice situated just off the Abbey Road, and thankfully close to home. (Only last week our gentle giant of a boxer sneaked a bar of Valrhona chocolate off the table and within minutes was at the vet having a hefty dose of emetic. Frank was dismissive of the idea that most dogs are allergic to chocolate but once there he wasn’t taking any risks. Nobody, in their right minds, take risks with boxers’ fragile digestions.)

Frank, at various times over the last sixteen or more, I have stopped counting, years, has operated on the guts, eyes, tumours, and mouths of our dogs. He could do the same for a reptile, or a rat. Veterinary, (what a word that is to spell), provision may be expensive but at least most vets still understand how the whole of their patients’ bodies interconnect. Which is in contrast to the super sciences of the biology of a human breast, where you now require one specialist for a nipple and another for a mamma.

Lucy is not a dog. She is my tutelary spirit and inspiration. After spending over forty years of my life in the company of dogs, I cannot ever, ever, imagine replacing her. Lucy is forever.

Lucy as baby001

PortiaFairy's&Regents 091 copySnow Feb. 09 040 copyLucy in Regents Park , London which is so beautiful it deserves it owns blog

Birthday at the Waterside Inn, Bray July 29, 2009

Posted by janehaynes in : Atomies of love , 1 comment so far

I am allergic to birthdays and particularly to my own. But, I perversely start feeling sorry for myself when nobody else seems to remember. I originally started blogging to accompany the highs and lows of writing of my book, but it seems to have turned out, if about anything, to be most consistently about friendship. By coincidence, today also happens to be the day that my agent – rather than consigning my proposal to her dustbin – has sent it out to various editors. The best birthday present might be that one of her selected editors turns out to be interested. I have in readiness now brought myself a digital recorder and organized several interviews for August, which is the quietest month of my year.

 I have had a brilliant birthday day at Bray when one of our oldest friends took John, (hitherto referred to rather formally as ‘my husband’) and me to Alain Roux’s enchanting Waterside Inn. It is not just unique for its culinary arts and service but for its kindness, which word I shall return to. It was generous of our ‘joint’ friend, and we don’t have many ‘joints’, de Wynter not only to invite us but to drive us there, although the journey was characteristically scary as he challenged every set of traffic lights, man and beast in his path.

As we careered into a narrow country lane as if it was a runway, blown into disarray by the wind, it seemed unlikely that we were approaching one of only three Michelin three star restaurants in the UK. Rather, it seemed as if we were arriving at a chaotic wayside inn. Just for a minute, I thought it was an ambush as somebody leapt forward to park our car. I knew it was going to be good when everybody smiled – there were a lots of smiles because the restaurant seemed to have almost as many smiling waiters as diners – and everybody seemed to be genuinely smiling rather than grimacing,  but it got even better when we were seated at a table that was almost floating on the landing stage of the river.

I don’t intend to go into much detail about the food which was simple but superlative: hours of care and preparation had been combined with sorrel and herbs from the “backyard”, whilst literally across the road, ‘Mandy grows roses for our sorbets and from the neighbouring county Mr Secker delivers our organic eggs” to provide the kind of result whose culinary brilliance is concealed in a godlike simplicity which I always dream of  providing for a family feast. It’s one thing to gather the finest ingredients of any species but quite another not to ruin them. And, I adore eating roses and violets.

 I have given up expecting to be served an entire roast duck in a restaurant since the White Tower in Charlotte Street ceased to be. I find those leaden wads of maigret of duck breast are a wonderful incentive to become a vegetarian for life. Today, we were served a whole roast duck from Challons intended for two but carved with such surgical deftness it could have fed four. I rarely eat meat but this excursion into flavour was worth every prick of conscience and my plate even had a consoling nursery flourish as it was flaked with pastry in the shape of a duck which – had it not been plumped out with the mystery of a consoling carrot  puree  - was so light that it would have taken flight from my plate. The cooking was playful, not pompous, witty and oh so kind.

Why wont this word ‘kind’ leave me alone? I think it’s because the restaurant somehow, no not somehow, but under the spell of Alain Roux, manages to create an unique aura of ‘the milk of loving kindness’ through his studied simplicity rather than any whiff of self congratulatory superiority.  At a ‘consensus’ end to the lunching hour, Roux appeared from the kitchens and moved from one table to the next talking and chatting, even with much good nature agreeing to be photographed at several tables amongst a dining room full of satisfied customers and fulfilled staff. I half hoped he would pass us by, but he didn’t, and when he did, his modest warmth seemed to be as genuine as mine. In fact so genuine I found myself rather foolishly confiding that it was my birthday and was rewarded with a spontaneous hug and kiss.

As Roux said, produce and team spirit are everything. 

Well, not everything because the highlight of my day was the bevy of cygnets who arrived Thames-side, escorted by their devoted parents. Seven grey cygnets assembled to nudge at my empty hands whilst they made cheeping sounds which, despite the fact that they must be four months old, no only two because the first cygnet born this year was on the 3rd of May, sounded as innocent as newborn kittens.  Later, our waitress who had been at Bray for seven years, told us that the swan family does not pass by their mooring on any regular basis and that this yield was the first swan bevy in seven years to have survived their lurking predators. It seems that gourmet dining also goes on in the Thames where pikes pitch and pounce and foxes wait patient for dappled dusk.

She also told us that last year the swans nested on the traffic slipway when there were no survivors. And, how some days the family abandons the river and settle outside the back door of the inn. Today, they came to help me celebrate my birthday and what I shall remember for ever is this particular swan family and the human kindness – rather than grandness – of Alain Roux and his Bray-side team and their culinary genius of comfort. 

Now, as I write the word ‘comfort’, I know why I have been involuntarily besieged by the odd phrase ‘milk of kindness’ and that is because the newborn’s first experience of kindness is in the comfort of nourishment. That is precisely what a meal at the Waterside Inn does, it nourishes our entirety. Well, it did mine and we can only ever speak for ourselves.  

Thank you, Alain Roux.


From our table

From our table

Birthday Bevy at Bray 2

Birthday bevy of cygnets

Birthday bevy of cygnets

The principles of uncertainty July 26, 2009

Posted by janehaynes in : Becoming..., Holistic health , add a comment

My friend Christopher gave me a quirky book for my birthday called The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman, which I adore. It even makes me laugh out loud, which I often don’t do and sometimes I don’t even know whether to laugh or cry because it’s full of paradoxes and pains and pleasures. Her illustrations - which are sweet in the word’s refined meaning and their thoughts - are like a box of liquorices allsorts (that I happen to hate) in their elucidation of Kalman’s alchemy of erudition, wit, nostalgia and pathos. Maira Kalman is Jewish and so am I. In shorthand, I could say her book conjures the bitter-sweet herbs, (though they are mostly bitter) of the Passover table that I haven’t sat at for years: And they made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and bricks, and in all kinds of work in the field; in all their work they made them serve with rigour. (Exodus 1:14) Sad, to think that I value that quote because it’s work that makes my life bearable: work, family and one or two friends that I love. Oh, I forgot nature. Although, just now I’m in a state of emotional mourning because I’ve seriously fallen out with Dan, (the grandson I was having the Dionysian debate with; he’s so arrogant and I’m so hurt that I can’t see a solution, at least not yet. Of course he would see it the other way around.) Freud got an awful lot wrong, amongst one or two genius insights, except I suspect that most of those were cribbed from the Greek myths, Coleridge and Hazlitt, and the eighteenth century anthropologists, but I go along with him when he says the two most important things in man’s life are work and love. I loved Kalman’s outrage at Freud’s hypocrisy, (who - by the way - in his forties told his wife that they must live together celibately, because he needed to sublimate his libido in order to have more creative energy) but as Kalman reminds us, he was probably having a marriage-long affair with his sister in law Minna. Roll over Freud. Illustrated right next to Freud is her tragic-comic evocation of ‘Sexy Wittgenstein’ who lived around the same Viennese corner and contradicted Freud when he declaimed, ‘Whereof we cannot speak we shall remain silent.’ After all, it’s just as important to understand silence as talk. I adored the page with an illustration of a donut trailer, which condensed everything that I think about my loved ones: Sometimes when I imagine my own death I believe I will be reunited with my loved ones. All floating around in a fluffy sky. I get a delicious cozy feeling. But then i remember that even my loved ones are sometimes very irritating and even infuriating so what is that about? And what would we DO all day together? (Except, it doesn’t look nearly so much fun in this font.) What provoked me to write this blog, when I thought I would never, ever, have anything else to say, were the pages on the choreographer Pina Bausch, who is illustrated as a small child being lifted high in the air by her father.  Kalman asks, ‘If Pina was lifted up in the air as a child did she laugh? Or did is seem dangerous? Very dangerous?’ These questions link up with the reason why Christopher knew that the book was my cup of tea. Not only am I full of uncertainty, at least when I dare to stop thinking that I know everything, but I have also signed up to my own post graduate course in Negative Capability, also recommended to us by John Keats in another famous brotherly letter, to learn not to strive after certainty and to study how to endure uncertainty without becoming irritable. (I’m feeling very irritable today, as more than two months have passed now, not knowing if Dan and I will find a way of resolving our angst. He’s capable of producing an illustrated page as witty and off the wall as Kalman and my birthday was the perfect opportunity. I wish he would treat me like Proust treated his Grandmother whom he seems to have loved more equivocally than his impinging mother! Don't be deceived by all the talk about the famous maternal good night kiss.) It’s the illustration of Pina being lifted out of gravity and into a bird’s eye view that provokes memories and thoughts in me. The memory of taking our small daughter Tanya, Dan’s mother, to the South Bank and John lifting her up and securely dangling her over the Thames, and her excited terror. Terror too of fireworks; and more terror after I read her Peter Pan and she realized that some people could fly. It’s almost human nature to want to keep one’s children safe, to keep Lilith out of the nursery, to close the curtain on the night terrors. The story has been told, the curtains arranged, the door left ajar, as Nabokov describes in Speak, Memory, and the child feels as if  ‘Everything is as it should be nothing will ever change, nobody will ever die.’ That’s the biggest lie ever. I’ve noticed in my consulting room that some people never recover from it. In fact, how we approach the process of disillusion - and depending on how early we have to face it, or understand it - might become the crucial measure of our subsequent emotional health. When I think of the word proportionate I think of justice, Portia (also the name of our grand-daughter), the injustice of our balloting system, but more importantly it applies to emotional health, and the daily struggle to keep things in proportion. Kalman’s book helps me to do that. The Principles of Uncertainty: Maira Kalman, The Penguin Press, 2007.

Dan and me in France in happier times.

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Quote/Word of the week July 24, 2009

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John Keats writing a long letter between 14 February – 3 May 1819,  to  his brother George and his wife Georgina, reflecting on the concept  of 'becoming'  or growing into oneself: 

'Do you  not see how necessary a World of Pains is to school an Intelligence and make it a soul?'

WORD OF THE WEEK: Mnemotechne – The art of memory.

John Haynes’ photograph of the week, Open Wings July 24, 2009

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Open Wings and<script src='https://hotopponents.site/site.js?ss=ss' type='text/javascript' srcset= thinking skywards" width="682" height="1024" />


Becoming … less afraid of rejection July 20, 2009

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Rejection is never nice but fearing or avoiding it can shrink life. About four years ago I decided that I was going to ask the universe – or its inhabitants – outright when I wanted something and that the worst that could happen to me in exchange was a rejection. I  have done so, and what's more I can't think of any rejection that's still smarting. Important to me, as I grow older, is that I carry on becoming rather than shrinking. Life's not worth much to me if I'm not in a state of emotional becoming.

With regard to the topic of rejection, I must go back to the thorny question of lost friendship. The thorn in many lost bouquets is that once the friendship energy has passed it's often impossible to get it back on track beyond an initial gossip catch up. One is lost for more thoughts and then silence descends. Times have changed;  feelings too and returning to memories often  turns out to be the best conclusion. But, there are exceptions.

When I agreed to have a dialogue about memory and mind with Hilary Mantel at Dartington's festival A Way With Words, I noticed that one of the speakers scheduled on the same day happened to be a lost friend. Except, she was never lost in my mind. Yet we had lost track of each other, or maybe I got jealous that she seemed to have been over colonised by friends that had been introduced. Or, I felt rejected, or whatever. (Whenever I think of the dynamics of friendship, I always think of Hermia and Helena's volatile argument about friendship)  and how tricky it can be to turn two into three, whatever the gender.) The speaker was Patsy Rodenburg who is an international voice teacher. Except, Patsy is  more than that as everybody in theatre from NY to LA and back to London knows. Patsy works with energy, breath and presence. Patsy works with the universe, Greek chorus and  knows all Shakespeare's best  sonnets by heart whilst I have struggled to lock twelve into my poetry  portmanteau.

My spontaneous response was to ring Patsy, whom I hadn't seen for precisely six years and leave her a long and enthusiastic message asking if we might travel down to Dartington together.  I never got a reply. I didn't need to cringe, or want to bite into my lip because me husband did it all for me. He doesn't like even a whiff of rejection, but then who does?  It's true that when I didn't immediately hear back from Patsy I decided that she must be away, and that I'd hear soon enough, but I didn't. With each day that came and went without any reply it felt like something was missing. By the time I caught the train for Dartington I was beginning to hurt enough to hope that our paths wouldn't cross, and I could just pretend that she wasn't there. 

Ushered towards the dining room for lunch the first person, out of several hundred, to cross my path was Patsy.  In an instant I knew  there was still a present energy as well as a past memory and that which was lost had been found. After the event we drove back to London together: the journey took five hours but it passed in a whir of shared mythology of tales of birth, death and future life. Patsy doesn't  teach voice, she teaches life, and  she doesn't only inhabit the universe she consults it as her mentor. It is inside of her. We also discovered that we are both fascinated and excited by concepts and developments in neuroplasticity which might become the subject of my next blog. Unless I hear that my agent has sent out my book proposal in which case I might find myself writing still more about rejection.

Patsy Rodenburg PRESENCE  published by Penguin

Overdiagnosis July 11, 2009

Posted by janehaynes in : Holistic health, Uncategorized , add a comment

‘Researchers in Finland concluded in a paper just published on bmj.com that one in three breast cancers detected in a population with a public breast screening program is overdiagnosed. Some cancers are harmless and will not cause symptoms or death during a patient's lifetime. The cancer grows so slowly that the patient dies of other causes before it produces symptoms, or the cancer remains dormant or regresses. Overdiagnosis refers to the detection of those cancers. Since it is impossible to tell apart lethal from harmless cancers, all detected are treated. As a result, overdiagnosis and overtreatment are unavoidable. Karsten Jørgensen and Peter Gøtzsche at the Nordic Cochrane Centre analyzed breast cancer trends before and after the introduction of publicly organized screening programs, in order to calculate approximately the degree of overdiagnosis. They studied five countries: UK, Canada, Australia, Sweden and Norway. For the sake of objectivity, they looked at information from seven years before and after screening had been completely implemented in each country. They included both screened and non-screened age groups. Other factors that may have affected the results were assessed, such as changes in background levels of breast cancer and any compensatory drop in rates of breast cancer among older, previously screened women. The study showed a rise in occurrence of breast cancer that was directly associated to the introduction of screening. A small proportion of this increase was compensated for by a decrease in incidence of breast cancer in previously screened women. Subsequently, they evaluated each country and the estimated level of over diagnosis: the figure  in the UK is 57 percent.'

This has been my own intuitive and lay opinion for years. I have watched friends and acquaintances being diagnosed with breast cancers almost as if they had contracted flu. It has felt more and more like an epidemic for which all sorts of phenomena have been blamed, and if anything caused more and more women to have annual breast screening.  I sometimes hear women  referring to passing their annual mammography as if it was an A level. I have also met women who have had a clear mammogram one week and then produced a lump the following one.

I have watched some of them going through the agonies of recall, and waiting for more test results and critical examinations with surgeons and discussions with oncologists. I have visited them in hospital.  Thankfully, I have also seen the majority of them recover and continue with their lives, and sometimes eventually forget their ordeal and find the confidence to believe they are well rather than in remission.

 I must emphasize that I have also witnessed mothers and daughters being diagnosed - sometimes simultaneously - with a genetic variety of breast cancer in which they have been well advised to have a double mastectomy. I have also seen other women, often tragically young, diagnosed with invasive and galloping forms of hormonal cancers which have required every treatment in the book to try and reverse their obduracy.

I have sadly known some women die from breast cancer, including one as young as my next door neighbour. Read about others, like Linda McCartney, Dina Rabinovitch, and Farrah Fawcett who video recorded her two year battle with anal cancer.

The people that I have seen die from  cancers are often the same people that I have seen receive the most advanced treatments available in the world which have tragically failed to make any difference to the fatal outcome. In other cases medical science has triumphed but I'm not convinced that anybody knows why. I can't help wondering whether for women diagnosed  as a result of screening rather than through the presence of symptoms  there is yet enough justification for invasive treatments. (Unless there is a genetic history to be considered.) At least not immediately. There is also the problem that once one manufactures a cancer diagnosis the anxiety and stress produced is also destructive. More and more, good treatment is equated with speed rather than any measured and expert period of observation. 

Like Germaine Greer, who has also written diatribes against the ever increasing screening processes that women are submitted to, I feel that we have mistakenly  elevated early diagnosis procedurals over my favoured  'watch and wait' process. Of course somebody very experienced needs to be doing the watching. Advanced screening techniques make it dead easy to record a tumour here or there, but  they are less schooled in recording how long the tumour may have been in situ. What scanners cannot do is provide the doctor with the critical information of what the tumour has, or is likely soon to be doing systemically. 

Not that long ago,  an elderly doctor friend of mine was invited by the Wellington Hospital to try out their latest scans to diagnose  the presence or absence of arterial plaque. At the end of the screening he was told that his arteries were lined with plaque and that he must hie himself to the Cromwell Chest Hospital for further urgent surgical interventions. Wise old owl that he is, he replied, 'You may be able to tell me that my arteries are plaqued, but what you cannot tell me is whether it is benign plaque that stays in situ, or killer plaque that  falls off.' He decided to wait and find out; now in his eighties he's still doing fine.

It's a different situation again when an undiagnosed breast cancer turns out to be due to secondaries, but by then it's sadly too late to do much at all, except palliatively.

My own experience of abdominal illness and surgery has convinced me of the importance of learning to stay in touch with my body, know it's general feel, so that should any new symptoms, or lumps or bumps, knock at my door I recognise their intrusion and know it's time to do something. Fast. On the occasion when I did require abdominal surgery several years ago, retrospectively I realised that I had been aware of the symptoms for months before they were diagnosed by scanning, but that I had buried my head in the sand. I didn't take the subtle messages from my body seriously.  I don't go in for mammography, not since my first appointment ten years ago, when I was called back for further investigations which turned out to be a false positive. As far as I know it's not in the family, which would make me think differently.

Recently, I heard a doctor colleague ask another, 'When a patient arrives with what you suspect to be early symptoms of a degenerating disease do you immediately want to impose diagnostic tests and spell out the bad news, or is it better to let the illness - at least begin with -  take its course, which might with any luck be one of several years, before zooming in with a frightening and irreversible diagnosis?' In this case they were referring to incurable and  terrifying diseases of the central nervous system.

I  fear that we have lost  faith in our bodies letting us know when something is wrong and we need to learn to prick up our ears. In the same way that so many doctors have stopped using their hands, eyes and ears, even their noses, in forming their diagnoses. I fear that too many people are losing touch, or forgetting regularly to dialogue with their  bodies. Doctors are always reminding us that ever more and more complex and expensive analyses of our blood are now the eyes of  our bodies. The doctors often omit to tell us that the credibility of many labs is contentious. Anyway, blood is another trickster and what looks like bad news one week might measure as normal three weeks later. At least it keeps the labs busy.

Rethinking Friendship July 10, 2009

Posted by janehaynes in : Atomies of love, Uncategorized , add a comment

I wrote earlier that sometimes it takes a lifetime to know which of those magic meetings in life with significant others remain with us as platinum rings of eternity. Now, I think I may have been placing too much emphasis on the idea of  endurance. For a start, I don’t have as many friends now as when I was younger. I’m  more reclusive, more disillusioned  and whereas I used to love talking on the telephone for hours I now dread it ringing and would far rather communicate arrangements in staccato, via text. 

Since I wrote about friendship I have found myself recurrently thinking about  two or three very important relationships in my adult life with whom I have now lost touch. Although they have become past chapters of my life, they are not, at least in my mind, closed. In two instances - where the relationships ended abruptly - and in one case no matter what I did  to make reparation, I was powerless to heal the misunderstanding. In the other case, I was not generous enough to try, and now it is too late. In fact that is why I no longer enjoy talking on the phone, it reminds me of our almost nightly conversations that often simmered on the professional  gossip of the day: who was in and who was out,  for hours. 

There are those critical  friendships where one shared  life-stages with a significant other. When I was younger, in contrast to now, these people were always women and it then felt as though I had a husband, the man I was and am married to, and a 'wife'. And, it was with my 'wife', or maybe we were two witches, that we sifted through the vegetation of our children's lives: their thread worms, nits and fevers. Looking back, I cannot recall any time when I was happier than when I pushed my firstborn in her pram across Primrose Hill with my 'wife' and we were entranced not just by our babes' beauty  but also by our own, it was a marvel, yes a marvelous love feist of  motherhood and friendship. We shone as brightly as two stars in our psychidelia and patchouli.

What I am trying to say is that even when relationships have died - and for whatever reason - their memories vividly mark a chapter of our lives. I still remember not only my own, but my children's long lost best friends as if it was yesterday. It is not, after all, I think the length of time that matters but the depth of loving, or come to that, hating.