Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

On Friendship


I’m lucky to have some wonderful friends. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learnt that you have different friends for different reasons – some who help you through the crises of becoming a mother, others that assist with the dislocation of being a foreigner in a country where you can’t make yourself adequately understood, old friends who remember what you looked like when you were eight, new friends who only know you as someone with grey hair, virtual friends who like what you write and don’t care what you look like.

I love that feeling when you meet someone new and you think, “Aha, I LIKE you” and then it flows smoothly and almost effortlessly into a friendship. Sometimes you meet someone and you think, “You could be my kind of person” and then somehow it doesn’t flow, obstacles crop up and you are rueful, but also grateful that for some reason the universe has got in the way of that one happening.

Whenever I’m home in South Africa, I try to have a girls’ weekend away with my three dearest girlfriends there. One I have known since I was five, another since I was twelve and the third since I was eighteen. This takes a bit of organising because we have nine children between us, but once the kids are safely stowed with grannies and husbands, we are free. We usually drink a lot of wine, eat fantastic food, invariably cry and always laugh. These are the people whose constancy got me through my parents’ divorce when I was at school, and who tolerated my extremes when I was at university, testing out the adult I would become.

It never ceases to amaze me what wonderful women these people, who I knew as children, have become – the one I thought would be an actress is now an executive of an internet company and mother of four, the one I thought would be a fashion designer is now a PR fundi and mother of two, and the one whose future always puzzled me (roadie? poet? Buddhist?) is now a film editor and documentary-maker. You are so darn interesting: where are your blogs, girls?

Since we got married and moved to Germany, I have developed a special category of friends: ones found for me by my husband. I spent four lonely months in a weird little German flat before I found a job here. To assuage my loneliness and to prevent me from insisting we went straight back home again, Thomas got into the habit of accosting women he barely knew at work and marching them off to meet me. Obviously he has good taste because at least five of those women became good friends. One, who studied translation at university, has, through sheer determination and self-belief and despite attempted undermining by male bosses, turned herself into a fine software developer. Another leapt from translator to consultant in a few short years, developed a travel habit despite an excruciating fear of flying, and is now setting out on the scary path of being a mother. Another is excelling at work while finding time at weekends to quilt baby blankets for friends, cook and bake amazingly, and visit every single European city that exists. Where are YOUR blogs?

I have Mummy friends who help me get through my day, ones who I can phone and say, ‘I need to go to the gynae, could you have my kids for two hours?’ or ‘Say something to help me get through the madness of the next two hours until I have the whole bloody lot asleep!’. These people may be stay-at-home mothers but they are also language teachers, doctors, ecologists. We prop each other up, make each other laugh, buy each other coffee, mind each other’s kids. We listen to each other, dissect our children’s problems together, plan escapes. I’d like to read your blogs, even if they are in German. (I might struggle with a Spanish blog.)

I have friends with no children, who are very very kind to mine. I have movie and book friends, most of whom are also cooking, baking, food and wine friends. All of them make me laugh, all of them listen well, all of them have apt things to say about the world at large. Their blogs would be good.

I’ve developed a new category of friends. They’re faceless, but I feel as if I know them. Some I rely on for important information about food, others fill me in on great books and movies, others lead me on an intellectual dance, others do all of the above. Some make me laugh, others make me sad. Many of them make me say ‘I can relate to that’. I’m already reading their blogs.

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

3 thoughts on “On Friendship

  1. This is a superb post. I’ve always loved the notion of having different friends for different reasons, and then, of course, discovering that many of those reasons overlap. For example, you make friends with someone because you happen to be the only two people on your street of the same political persuasion, but then you discover you’re both book addicts, as well. And I’m developing that new category of “friends,” as well. The wonderful thing about them is that they’re stationed all over the world, and yet, we still seem to speak the same language (and it’s not just English!).

  2. What a lovely post! You echo my sentiments exactly!

  3. Wow, Charlotte, you are prolific! Beautiful post on friends. I also liked the weird things about Germany, giving me an insight into the German character.

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