Harriet Walker: 'I will be in her life forever - because I fell over at her wedding'


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No matter how hard you try to make your friends love you, there's never any guarantee, is there? You can be your funniest self, your most supportive self, your kindest, most understanding, coolest or most relaxed self, and there's still nothing to say your friends won't just desert you, like a smuggler's ship slipping its ropes in the bay at midnight.

Some friendships end suddenly and violently, others fade out without even a whimper. Rather than a blazing row, you just look round one day and you realise, with a remorseful and heavy heart but also one that is buoyant with its new-found liberty, that you haven't seen such-and-such a person for almost a year, and you hadn't noticed. And you suppose, there and then, that that means you aren't friends any more.

There doesn't need to be animosity: when acquaintances fade from your circle like inverse photographs developing into blanker landscapes, they don't always do so because something has gone wrong. In many ways, it's because something has gone right. Two people moving in opposite directions have found the peace to continue their journeys alone.

Honey crystallises and so does life: the gloopiness that characterises it at one stage, enjoyable as it is, wears off after a while into something harder. Paper yellows through use and excess socialising. Then it likes to sit, unbothered, on a bookshelf in its dotage. People like going out and networking at some stages in their life. Then they like to sit, unbothered, on the sofa with the person who knows them best, often without talking.

Perhaps I sound maudlin. If I'm honest, it was a friend's wedding which prompted me to think about it. That sounds bad, doesn't it? It was a lovely wedding, don't worry.

The fact is, I know I will be in this friend's life forever. I just know it. How? Because, during the part of her newly wedded husband's speech where he rhapsodised over her beauty and grace, her wicked laugh and her sense of humour, I threw myself at his feet. There's nothing to seal a friendship like staring up at her other half while honeyed sweet nothings drip from his lips.

Let me be honest with you: I fell over. Somehow, in trying to slink back to my seat during the speech, I did a big slippery pratfall, skidded along a bit on one heel, then (and I don't understand the logic of this as I swear I was falling backwards) ended up on all fours in front of the groom.

You see where I'm going with this? I will be in her life forever, closer than we are now maybe or maybe not, but eternally. Because I fell over at her wedding and she will remember me until the end of days, even if the bloody great Sid James bellow she emitted as I scrabbled about on the floor eludes her memory in years to come.

This is not an exhortation to throw yourself at the partners of your favourite people, nor to misplace your feet on purpose wishing for some sort of lovely kismet. It's far more profound: it is meant to placate. That no matter how far from a person you end up, whether you speak or not, whether you fought or just faded out, you'll always be with them. Because chances are you made a tit of yourself in front of them once and they won't forget it.

Or – and let's go with this because it's nicer, though less realistic – you did something really lovely for them once and they'll remember it for ever. Maybe you drew them a picture or told them a good joke. Maybe you introduced them to the best boxset they have ever known, or their partner. Or maybe you didn't, and it really was as basic as falling over in a hugely embarrassing way in public that means you're lodged in their brain.

Either way, I like the idea of it. It lets you off the hook a bit. Because who hasn't felt the creaking angst of having let a friendship drift? Sometimes, even though we're all wired up day and night, getting in touch is the hardest thing to do. Not for any profound reason, but precisely because it's so basic that it slips your mind.

I have a friend who speaks to people on the actual phone. She has the sort of conversations with people in other countries that I would only have with someone who was in the same room as me. Perhaps that's where I'm going wrong. But still, when we do finally make it to the same room, you can guarantee at least that I'll make quite the entrance.

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