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7 January 2004

I found myself musing on friendship today, and the breaking of friendships - which so far as I remember is a thing I've never done, not part of my understanding, which is why I'm always so bemused when it's done to me. I'm not claiming never to have let a friendship slip, that would be ridiculous and untrue, a hundred times untrue: but only by passivity, by inaction, by letting things drift too far. I can drift on a continental scale, and I'm hopeless at keeping in touch.

The other thing, though, the sudden decision that we can no longer be friends: every time people tell me that - and they do, with increasing frequency - I find myself in awed admiration of their ruthlessness, at the same time that I'm flinching from their candour. I think I must be missing a bone somewhere, probably a backbone, a spineless creature I. I admire it because I cannot do it, I can't conceive of doing it, or of living in a way that would call on me to do it. That notion of friendship as a constructed thing, a thing that can therefore be disassembled, even though it leave scars and wreckage in the landscape: no. It doesn't work that way, not for me. Friendship is irredeemable: no deposit, no return, as it used to say on pop bottles when I was young. It can turn twisted and vicious and black, surely, it can be stretched too far and spread too thin, it can suffer in a thousand ways but you can't just snap it off. At least, I can't. There are people out there who can, or think they can; people who will tell you that I am no longer a friend of theirs, though we used to be close. Well, don't tell them, but they are secretly still friends of mine, even if we haven't talked for years. We'll always have Paris, and that's enough. That's a definition. Friendship doesn't go away; when it's feeling bruised, it just crawls off and hunkers down somewhere in the past, in the good times. They can't take that away from me.

And other popular sentimental songs, and cheap cultural references. Oh, lawks. It's the new year, it always turns me mawkish. I know we always try to see ourselves and our own behaviour in the best possible light, or at least the light in which we like ourselves the best, but sometimes I do suspect myself of a secret hankering after saintliness. I think saints think that way: black & white and sentimental, all the philosophy and life-experience of the greetings card, simple and savage and blunt. The good news is that I can't keep it up. Simple is difficult for me, I just keep complicating things; I can be cruel but savagery is beyond me, I'm too nervous to be savage; and blunt - well, no. Never. Not in any sense. I cut myself again today, bless these knives of mine.

And I started writing a piece for the local paper, about a crime fiction festival we're having at the Lit & Phil here next month. Eight hundred words of basic English prose on a given theme, with all the facts to hand: it should have been a morning's work, and I've struggled with it all day and not got halfway through. God, but I hate journalism. Gave it up in the end, left it till tomorrow and cooked another turkey tajine just to prove that the first one wasn't a fluke. Half my birthday presents were foodie, you'd expect that; but it's remarkable how, with no hints and no consultation, so many of them are ideal for a tajine and have almost no use else. Fruit and nuts in honey, what else are you going to do with that? Pickled tangerines, for crying out loud? They couldn't have got it righter if I'd written them a list. Friends are good...

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© Chaz Brenchley 2004
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.