and it’s from the old we travel to the new

Yesterday I cried on and off most of the evening, went to bed and cried a little bit more. Woke up at 2.30am and failed to go back to sleep for another 2 hours as my mind wove its way through memories.  Had a near one died? No.  Was a loved one diagnosed with  terminal illness? No.  Were we about to declare bankruptcy? No.  The source of my sadness … a friend moved to the other end of the country.

We make friends at many different stages in our lives.  When we are young children our friends are mainly determined by our parents, they tend to be the children of their own friends.  We start to take control of our friendships at nursery and then school.  Some of our most enduring relationships are made at that time and I can include two friends I know I could call in the middle of the night from that era.  However, most of those don’t last the strains of time, travel and growing up.  During university and the early career years friends come and go as we move jobs, towns and even countries before we finally settle down in a career and/or a family.

It was at this stage in my life that this friendship was born.  I had moved to Durham from Scotland, newly married and with a toddler daughter following my husband’s medical career to his first consultant post.  She had just returned to Durham after a decade away, with three young children following her husband’s medical career to his first consultant post.  We both had a ribald sense of humour seasoned with plenty of sarcasm and an instant understanding of what is was like to be the non-working, non-medical wife of a hospital consultant (in those days – fairly shit – you are pretty much a non-person in the eyes of many of their colleagues of all ranks). It transpired our husbands had been at the same college at Cambridge (although like most men they couldn’t remember)  Our children were about to start in the same class at the same school.  Hello new friend.

Like all relationships we moved along with the tides and there would be periods when we didn’t see each other as much.  Once children became old enough to have outside interests and hobbies and husbands senior enough to be rarely around as they are sought after for conferences and committees across the country free time for coffee with friends is in short supply.  Thank goodness for friends with more time who arranged dinner parties etc.

Then finally the children gained driving licences and then moved away to university.  We began  a regular knitting and stitching group, six friends with a wicked sense of humour and a mutual love of knitting and stitching.  Ladies in Stitches was born.  Twice a month we spent the day at my friend’s house and upped the yarn and thread ante.  I learned to crochet, a dyed in the wool (no pun intended) stitcher learned to knit and has just completed her first pair of socks.

My friend introduced me to crewel work and I am still inordinately proud of my first ever attempt.

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I rediscovered ribbon embroidery.

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Another, a seriously accomplished crafter and professional seamstress took up lace work knitting with astonishing speed and equally astonishing skill.

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We had in-jokes.  At least five other people reading this will appreciate the significance of the squirrel!

We had days out  to festivals, exhibitions, gardens, we opened each other’s eyes, we learned from each other, we had a lot of fun and we supported each other quietly as we did so.  As each of us faced crises of sometimes quite frightening severity Ladies in Stitches wove a small part of the overall net that caught our fall.

Then a little part unravelled.  My friend announced that they were moving to the other end of the country.  It made perfect sense, that was where all their children lived, including her new grandchild.  Having brought my own children up without grandparents within 300 miles I understood, but my lower lip wobbled just a little.

They sold their house but without somewhere to move to down south they were looking to rent.  Lo and behold the tenants in our Barn had just left and they moved in next door.  My girls thought it was hysterical.  When they were younger the house next door to one of their friend’s in a nearby village came up for sale.  They were desperate for us to buy it so they could live next door to their best friend, they planned on digging tunnels  between the houses for ease of access!

We didn’t need tunnels. For a glorious year I had a good friend (and their two lovely dogs one of whom became bosom buddies with Poppy) a mere couple of yards away.  We didn’t live in each other’s pockets but the kettle was often on.

It couldn’t go on forever.  Yesterday she started the next stage in her journey and I wish her nothing but love and good fortune.  I am mourning the death of one friendship and learning to love the birth of a different one.  I am 55 years old, I have lived in this part of the world for 25 years, longer than I have ever lived anywhere in my entire life, I have been married for 25 years and this friendship has spanned almost all the time I have been married and lived here and so is intrinsically linked to a major part of my life so far.  It is hard to unpick it and re-work it into a different form.

But I will.

Love Gillie x


letting go



Remove unnecessary items from (an untidy or overcrowded place)

That could include what?

  • wardrobe
  • kitchen cupboards
  • dvd collection
  • garage
  • desk


The list is endless.  But what about:

  • blogroll
  • Facebook “friends”
  • Christmas card list
  • to do list
  • bucket list
  • hobbies
  • tv programme must watch list
  • obligations


They fall into two main categories:

  • contacts
  • to do lists

I am not suggesting you cut your friends down to two, dropping all others like a rotting fish.  We have concentric circles of friends and acquaintances.  Life would be very lonely with only two close friends and no passing acquaintances, the people you meet at a party or the bus stop and can chat to without any obligation to “meet up for coffee”, yet have enough in common to genuinely be pleased to see them and pass a few minutes of your time with them.  Equally if these were the only friends you had you life would be equally lonely.

However there a some people who appear to have your best interests at heart but in all honesty drain your energy, block your movement forward and leave you frustrated, though you don’t know why.  Julia Cameron calls them the crazymakers, the people who cannot survive without a drama and usually at the expense of somebody else.  They have only one schedule, theirs; they expect special treatment (because of course they would give it to you if you needed it); they live in their reality not yours, your boundaries only count if they fall within theirs; they are expert saboteurs, the ones who plant a tiny seed of doubt “for your own good, I can see the bigger picture”.  And all the time they maintain a brilliant facade as your protector, your champion, the only one who really understands what you want to do with your life.

Let the crazymaker go.  We all have them and they are often the people we least expect.  When I gently let my crazymaker slip away after far, far, far too many years my entire family noticed the difference.  We were collectively less stressed.

Some people are perfectly lovely but were never destined to be in your life forever.  There are some people who live thousands of miles away but with whom I still keep in touch.  It may be irregular but it is genuine and we care about each other despite the distance.  There are some people to whom I am still sending Christmas cards, who live maybe 20 miles away and I haven’t seen for over 10 years.  Why am I still sending those cards?  Every year I feel immense guilt that despite the promises last year, we have not managed to find a single day out of 365 where we could spend even an afternoon together.  Isn’t that telling me something?

The energy you invest in keeping in touch with somebody with whom you no longer have a relationship is draining.  The guilt, the broken promises, sometimes made with your fingers crossed behind your back are all sucking you of energy you could spend on the people who matter to you whether they are next door or on Christmas Island.

I have friends who have bursting address books and for whom maintaining friendships with vast numbers of people is simple maybe even their lifeblood.  But if you are not that kind of person don’t beat yourself up about it, so what?  We are all different and bring different gifts to the table.

Now, whilst it is warm and sunny while the summer lies before you (sorry for my Southern Hemisphere readers, I too have lived south of the equator and used to get more than a little irritated by the sweeping seasonal generalisations made by the other side of the world) lie out in the grass and think about who you would miss if they slipped out of your life tomorrow and who you might be sorry to say goodby to, but you know you’ll feel a little lighter without the responsibility of keeping the friendship going.

Sorry no photographs today.