Last week, on the last day of July, I said goodbye to a dear friend at her funeral service in Southwark Cathedral.
The site has been a place of Christian worship since c. 606 AD, when the first church was erected there, and the current building became a cathedral upon the creation of the diocese of Southwark in 1905.
Throughout its history, the church has had links with many people of influence, including William Shakespeare. He was a resident of the parish of St Saviour’s (now Southwark Cathedral). His brother Edmund also lived in the parish, dying there in 1607.
So, it seemed fitting that one of the three readings at my friend’s funeral should have been written by William Shakespeare. It was delivered by her grand-daughter a short distance from both Edmund’s ledger stone and the Shakespeare Window, the left light of which depicts Puck.
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
William Shakespeare (c.1595) A Midsummer Night’s Dream – the Epilogue of Puck (V, i. 440-455)
Yesterday was a good day. To be clear, I do see most days that way; I can usually find occasion to smile and moments of gratitude. Unusually, yesterday was aware how good it was, too, and reminded me frequently.
Now, it’s almost daylight when I leave the house in the morning, telling me Spring is on the way. As usual, I traveled in to work on the top deck, front seat of the bus, with a good friend. Once on campus, we walked down together towards the lake, surrounded by many trees and few people. Then, he turned right to his office, and I turned left for coffee in the theatre cafe.
Served while I listened to the jazz playing in the background, I took the drink to my office. Since Christmas, I’ve been the only occupant. I like it that way and long may it continue. My day went from classroom to meeting to meeting to classroom with long enough breaks to walk from one venue to the next and no more. No time to waste or get up to any mischief.
For once, I consciously savoured that time, from my morning coffee, through my happy-hungover students, to my supportive colleagues and their great cups of tea. Starting the walk home, the sun was setting and I stopped to photograph those minutes when the sky is fiery and the trees are cutwork against a layered sky. Yesterday was a good day.
For a final Saturday-swim that day, the salty-feisty sea-dog and her fine-warm human took me to the Light House beach at Kiotari. Earlier, we’d ventured into the blue and then relaxed cheek to cheek. The freddo cappuccino, the laid-back soundtrack, the soothing shade and the cooling sea provided the ultimate chill on a hot afternoon.
Me, with salty-feisty sea-dog and captain of our trip, Zumba, in the beach tent at Lachania, Rhodes, Greece.
Just after our first swim, not our last, into the blue.
One September Saturday, together with a good friend and her salty-feisty sea-dog, we went swimming here.
At Lachania, on the island of Rhodes, Greece, the beach is close enough to the village to take its name and distant enough to keep its integrity.
First, there was Summer School.
Then, we formed #TeamOutlier.
Together we made this thematic analysis poster.
Next, our band of women, armed with colored pens, moved on to draw a discourse analysis poster.
On the final day, in the final hour, one #TeamOutlier member made this. We all felt it mattered, so we took this picture. Then we left to go our separate ways. Released back into the field, I know we'll meet again.
Silently and quickly,
he stood up,
removed my sunglasses and smiled at my eyes.
‘That’s better’, he said.
And he sat down.
The companionable silence resumed.
We stared out to sea once more,
from time to time glancing at each other
– almost coyly.
Because we knew.
There will never be a last time.
Late last year, I had cause to stop and take stock of friendships. I jotted down these notes in a moment of clarity to help me focus on when to hold on and when to let go. It was a useful reminder in funky times. Now, I’m sharing…
Friendship: Notes to Self.
Good ones are there for you and you them. Suspend disbelief, it’s often not those you expect who step up.
Friendship can only be based on what people are, not on what you want them to be.
Do not use friends to plug a gap in your life.
Online friendships can be supportive without needing to move off-screen.
Do not base friendship on one you made earlier. Jack is not just like John used to be. No, he isn’t. You aren’t who you used to be either, and if you knew where the hell John was now, you’d find he’d changed, too.
Manage your expectations and let others manage theirs.
You cannot live solely for the approval of others.
Never say never when starting a friendship, but do say never again when calling it.
It’s ok to forgive, it’s not ok to forget.
True love changes with you, it doesn’t end, don’t confuse the two.
Fear of rejection can only drive you deeper into relationships you don’t need.
Let go before a friendship’s bled right out. Walk away, don’t look back.
Clinging helps no-one. Ever. Even Cinderella almost overstayed her welcome.
Accept that you’re only human and afford others that courtesy, too.
Laughing is good. Laughing with someone else until you get cramps and can’t see through the tears is even better.
Hold onto your self-esteem.