The Incredible Kindness of Friends...
Youngsters often seem to be involved in a competition with their peers to have the busiest social life: Christmas and birthday cards are counted and the tally displayed; the number of 'friends' on facebook is regularly reported. Being 'popular' and part of the 'in-crowd' has never gone out of fashion and I'll admit to being this shallow when I was young. Then we age, move around the country, change our jobs and family circumstances and the number of our friends (those people for whom we consistently make time) dwindles. We can become so wrapped up in work and family life that we neglect good people. Sadly, I realise now that I have let many good friendships go. It can be quite a shock when those significant birthdays or anniversaries come around and you suddenly realise that you can barely fill a back room at the local pub for the party, never mind the O2 arena.
The upside of this, however, is that hopefully the quantity of friends we had in our youth has been replaced, in our thirties and forties, by the quality friendship of a few.
And it is to those stalwarts who have stuck beside me - especially over the last few years when I have been distracted with this novel - that I would like to pay tribute in this blog.
Without the unswerving support and encouragement of Zena Breckner and Sam Blain this novel would never have been finished. Both of them volunteered to read it, chapter by chapter, as it progressed and gave me invaluable feedback and help. The nagged me, criticised me and encouraged me in the way that only good friends can. Very often I forced myself to sit down at the computer and get on with it only because I knew they were waiting for the next installment. More often than not, it was their praise which motivated me to run back into the study and write some more. Whether Catching the Eagle ever takes off or not, I will be eternally grateful to these two for guiding me to the finish line.
Now Jill Boulton, a friend I have sadly neglected over the years, has come back into my life and, without hesitation, has volunteered to use her experience and skill as a professional editor to help me with the proof reading. I am delighted.
In fact, when I start to count my blessings - as I have this morning - I realise that there has been a whole army of people out there who have been encouraging me, one way or another, from the sidelines. I also realise that there are other friends in my world who would not hesitate to step in and help me if I needed their specialist skills; they are simply just waiting for the call.
In a bleak fortnight which has been dominated with personal problems and bad news, the continuing help, encouragement and advice given to me by my friends stands out like a beacon of hope. It is simultaneously humbling - and a cause for pride.
In one of my more insecure moments, I chanced upon an MSN survey which revealed to me that I had far below the number of good friends everyone else in the UK claimed to possess. I remember that this bothered me at the time.
Today, I smile and think back back to Katie's words: 'if you have just one good friend in this world then you are blessed....'
Today I feel very blessed.
Thank you, my good friends.