Poor Dr. Fox. Although friendship can take many forms, it seems as a minister you must be careful not to keep your close friends too close. For if you do, your relationship may well be subjected to back-handed rumours about your impartiality and schoolboy sniggering about your sexuality.
I’d probably make a good politician on the friendship front because I certainly wouldn’t consider myself particularly good at keeping these vital relationships going. To put it another way, the good friends I do have are valued especially because it means they have stuck with me through all the times I didn’t manage to keep up with them.
It’s not intentional. I can only think of a handful of people that I have actually deliberately avoided staying in touch with. It’s just that other people seem to be better at making the time to ‘phone, or text, or to visit than I am. I think of them often, but perhaps don’t assume that they might be waiting to hear from me. So I invariably find that when I meet one person, they have to fill me in on the wider circle of mutual friends that I haven’t kept up with.
I’ve been very lucky to find people who have made very positive contributions to my quality of life over the years. Some in the quite ordinary way, while others have been discovered in the most unlikely places. Some friendships have been based on a mutual task or interest, shared goals and the like. Others have been the fruit of crisis management and mutual support. And then some again who are a mixture of both of these, plus a healthy dose of laughs and fun into the bargain.
This week I met again one of the best types of friend – the old slipper. I hadn’t seen this person (I shall spare his blushes) for about five years. No, before you think it, for once it wasn’t my fault – he upped sticks and moved to Australia. Our friendship was cut in the white heat of teenage musical ambition, VW campervan tours and many nights of star-gazing discussions about music, life, guitarists, drummers and…music again.
We’ve shared a couple of e-mail chats (and yes, I’m afraid I do mean only two or three), about equipment and bands etc, but nothing very soul-searching or intense. Then he sends a short message saying he and his family are going to be visiting the U.K. for a short while and would I like to meet up? Of course the answer was ‘yes’.
The strangest thing was that as soon as we met it really was as though he’d not been gone at all. So much so that I had to remind myself to ask about his new life in Oz. Like those old slippers that feel just so comfy, despite being around for so many years. (Although he was, I’m glad to say, a lot less smelly than my preferred footwear.) In a way it didn’t matter that we had missed out on the fine details of five years of our lives; the conversation was unhurried, relaxed, warm and familiar banter, as if we had all the time in the world. As we parted company I think we were both sure that when we next met the conversation would probably just about pick up from where we left it yesterday, ignoring the miles and years passing between us.
And again, while we made jokes about popping in to see each other next time we were on the other side of the world, it occurred to me that the trouble with such good friendships is that they really do actually take 20 years or so to forge. So now I’m afraid that it’s only the most tenacious among my colleagues and friends who will reach that stage in the future.
Well, given the events of this week, perhaps you can forgive me then for being more than a little gooey-eyed and mushy over friendship when I hear all the furore surrounding Dr. Fox. Assuming, perhaps naively, that Dr. Fox hasn’t been perjuring himself in his statements to the commons, I think we should be pleased to find a politician who appears to have openly embraced the concept and support of a strong friendship. Surely he should be allowed to do so without being sniggered at or whispered about.
While of course ministers should be seen to be impartial and free from unnecessary coercion, it seems futile to expect them to not have people that they trust helping them in their lives. So, while I may not agree with all of the politics Dr. Fox represents, it may be that this week he, along with my antipodean visitor, have helped me again to appreciate the need for good friends in this troubled world.
And who knows? Maybe I will have a look in my address book and surprise someone by catching up.
© S Dyer 2011
- Friends defend ‘honourable’ Adam Werritty over Liam Fox storm (telegraph.co.uk)
- Who Else? (thedistinctdot.com)
- Under-Fire Fox: ‘I’ll Carry On Doing My Job’ (news.sky.com)
- On friendships, inspiration and loyalty (eemusings.wordpress.com)
- The value of friendship?? (awinsomejourney.wordpress.com)
- Liam Fox met Adam Werritty 40 times (telegraph.co.uk)