It is at this time of year that you know who your friends are.
By that I don’t mean numbers of Christmas cards and messages received, though that is part of it. No, I mean the quality of message received. Some messages arrive by email and have attachments with photos and other gizmos. Many cards arrive with letters and “round robin” messages included. Some cards just arrive with the name of the sender signed hurriedly across it. After a lifetime of moving from place to place within and outwith the UK, the Christmas cards we receive quickly have us reminiscing about the many different phases of our lives.
We have one friend whose card always arrives at the last moment with just his name on it. To the untutored eye, this might suggest that his is a half-hearted friendship, a bit of an afterthought on the Christmas list. Nothing could be further from the truth. He may not wax lyrical about his achievements through the year, or the achievements of his family. He may not send a card gushing with good wishes to us. But we know, through years of experiencing his kindness to us and to our family, that he is always there for us and we for him.
We also received a card today from a friend who lives in London. We rarely see him or his family from one year’s end to the next. He writes: “Will you be in London in 2013? We’d love to see Jo, and if you have to bring Eric along, we’d tolerate that.” I know – and he knows – that this kind of insult would be repaid in kind many times over if we do meet face to face in London – or anywhere – at any time. This is a friendship that can be picked up face to face after a month, a year, a decade or half a life time.
As I say, it’s at this time of year that you know who your friends are.