I was thinking recently how lucky I am to have several good friends I can completely rely on. I also have a number of delightful acquaintances who I either haven't known long or don't see so often but they are still good friends according to my criteria of friendship. I've never had what I would call a 'best friend', as I've always thought that to describe someone in this way would be hurtful to the other friends – who knows, they may have thought they
were your best friend. And the chosen one might be embarrassed as he/she didn't see you
as their BF – you see it gets complicated!
Freddy le Chat is my BFF (Best Feline Friend) and the late Mr B and my son (who seems to have avoided all my negative qualities) probably vie for the other BFF (Best Family Friend). But to all my friends, the message would be that I love you all in different ways…
Friends or fiends?
Interestingly, I originally mistyped the word in the last sentences as 'fiends' and there has certainly been some rather fiendish behaviour from my SNP chums over the recent leadership contest. For what it's worth, I thought all the applicants had both excellent qualities but also faults that required ironing out. If it had been the sort of commercial recruitment and selection exercise I used to get involved in years ago, I'd have readvertised the post: 'Previous applicants need not reapply', as the ads used to say rather hurtfully.
But it seems many of my colleagues have taken it upon themselves to get very cross with each other about the whole business. Thankfully, a more sensible chum had to tell off the several people who were throwing metaphorical slingshot at each other that such comments, if made at all, should be directed at the Evil Empire, not our own side.
Yet it seems social media is turning us into a whole cohort of keyboard warriors who can't seem to find common ground in anything. And it's not just the SNP – the unedifying leadership battles of both Labour and Tory parties have thrown up just as much mudslinging. Have we become more aggressive because we have been isolated from each other, not just by the pandemic but the relentless rise of social media, where no-one knows who is real any more?
The late great John Buchan, although superficially a unionist, had great affection for good politicians of all colours. See, for example, the Labour member, Chapman, in The Powerhouse
, who despite their public disagreements 'adores' his Conservative opposite number Tommy Deloraine. It's an example of the strong male friendships that were common in an era where there was less rapport between the sexes – but that's another story.
Thankfully, the warring factions have now reunited in condemnation of the local MP, not normally known for his presence in his constituency, who has suggested that a suburb of Aberdeen is going to be overrun by asylum seekers, forgetting the fact that the area in question has always been multicultural and has a very active councillor from the ethnic minority community.
Readers of the non-feminine community may regard this as a first world problem, but I struggle to find a pair of jeans that will flatter my undoubtedly 'hourglass' shape. The problem is that jeans were not designed for what I regard as a 'normal' shape for many females, and the ones I can afford to buy assume that your bottom half is smaller than the top. I understand there are labels which assume my shape, but being a thrifty type (learned from my Scottish late husband) I am not about to pay £250 for a pair of jeans. I once bought a pair that did fit, from good old M&S, but they are on their last legs (no pun intended) and I refuse to wear jeans with apparently designer holes. If any clothes manufacturer wishes me to 'road test' a pair of jeans, I'm a size 15.5 with medium-size legs.
On other wardrobe news, before downsizing to this house I donated a significant number of outfits to local charity shops (my days of being size 10 probably ended in 1977). This left me with an equally significant number of coat hangers. I packed them up for the house move 'just in case' and now I have discovered they have been breeding in the box I left them in as I have hundreds that I don't need. Nor does anyone else – the ladies in the local charity shop here shuddered when I mentioned coat hangers and pointed to another equally full box where the little wotsits had evidently added to their number, and in the manner of coat hangers everywhere had formed themselves into a tangle reminiscent of the Gordian knot.
Although I'm not impressed with his desire to conquer the known world, I've always admired Alexander the Great for cutting that knot instead of trying to untangle it, as I've given up with my coat hangers. I have managed to sort them into plastic and wooden varieties, but unless any avid SR reader who resides in Aberdeenshire would like them, they will be removed to the council recycling depot.
I also admire people who can sew as I have a sort of 'sewing dyslexia' and end up hemming things upside down. I thought left-handed people would be better at hand-sewing as they would follow the order of language writing. At my very academic girls-only secondary school, in what would nowadays be termed S1, we were allowed half a year of 'domestic science' and the other half was given to sewing. The former was fine – aged 13, I was already doing much of the cooking at home as my parents were useless at it. I wish I still had the little cookery notebook I had then as it contained all sorts of useful information, like how to make puff pastry properly instead of buying a frozen packet.
The sewing teacher on the other hand hated me – I think she had a chip on her shoulder about not being 'academic' enough – and refused to show me how to work the sewing machine. As I have never understood logical instructions, I would just sit there looking at it for the whole lesson, while meditating on the meaning of life and such. But if my old sewing teacher is reading this – she would be over 110 if she is – I'm happy to have another go.
Dr Mary Brown is a freelance education consultant