Everyone is talking about the weather. It continues bitter and bleak and bolshie. It is almost May, and humans and horses are rugged up as it if is deep mid-winter. The sky is the colour of shattered dreams and everyone I meet sighs rueful, resigned sighs. We must bugger on, but, like an old mare out at pasture, we long for the sun on our backs.
The Beloved Cousin calls, and, in my heart, the sun comes out.
I wonder about the power of friendship. Does it mean more now because I am deep in the woods of the middle of life? Is there something about heading towards fifty that makes a human cherish the kindness, laughter, wisdom and general loveliness of someone known for thirty years? Do I feel a passionate gratitude for those staunch friends because I know now how rare a gift they are? Or is it that the accumulation of memories, happy and sad, comical and tragic, build up into a soaring cathedral of wonder? Perhaps it is all those things.
We make plans. We love the plans and grow as excited about them as if we were girls. She tells me a funny and naughty story which begins with the thrilling words: ‘You must never repeat this.’ (We have kept many, many secrets over the years.) We range over some mutual friends. So and So gave a party; Such and Such has an enchanting new girlfriend.
We discuss the Euro-argument and the anti-Semitism row in the Labour party. We contemplate, rather gravely, whether the slow-down in China is going to capsize the world economy.
We fall into an antic, delighted, passionate gallop through Pride and Prejudice. We both love Jane Austen like a sister, and I am re-reading Pride and Prejudice for the second time in six months. ‘It’s like having your best friends to stay,’ I say, laughing. ‘I love spending time in their company. It’s like having you to stay. I breathe a huge sigh of relief and pleasure.’ We delve deep into the psyche of Mr Darcy. It’s not just pride, we decide, it’s that he is a classic introvert. We run through two or three of our favourite scenes. Some of them we can repeat word for word. ‘We are such geeks,’ she says, gusting with laughter.
Then, just for fun, we have a quick canter through Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and the Sword of Honour Trilogy.
She tells me something perfectly adorable which The Smallest Cousin has said, and I am so shaken with hilarity that I can’t speak, but just gasp with laughter down the telephone.
We run through a thorny problem I had not long ago which has turned out to lead to something much, much better than I could have hoped. ‘It’s so funny,’ we say, ‘how those things which you think are disasters so often end up being the best thing that could have happened.’ We are old ladies, and we have learnt a lot of life lessons, most of them the hard way.
Imagine that, all in one conversation.
As always, she leaves me better than she found me. She lights up the day, so I don’t care any more about the horrid weather. She has the amazing talent of growing more wonderful with every passing day. She is not static or stuck; she does not rest on her laurels or grow complacent. She’s always thinking of new things and figuring out the conundrums of the human condition and wading into the thorny reaches of the psyche. She always has a new theory for us to ponder, or has refined an old one and given it a little lemon twist. She is a remarkable human, and she is my friend.
That is sunshine, indeed.