Obsolete items rusting in my attic include, in no particular order of vintage, an Amstrad word processor, a sundial, a golf ball typewriter, a stone hot-water bottle, flared trousers, a quill pen, carbon paper, pointy winklepicker shoes, a toasting fork, a fax machine and a box of Betamax video cassettes. And some telephone directories.
We all have fellow passengers in our lives, who board and disembark at different destinations. Friendships change when circumstances alter, and trying to keep old friendships alive ties you to the past, which is apparently another country. Be thankful that it wasn’t North Korea. Despite the Spice Girls’ song, it’s not true that friendship never ends. Just look at the Spice Girls.
Some people are what Aristotle called “friends of utility,” or mutual benefit, whereby they borrow our lawnmower or stepladder, we keep an eye on their house and feed their cat when they go on holiday. Can’t quite see the mutual benefit in that. We should all declutter such friends now and then. Or now. I never knew Aristotle had a lawnmower.
Some friends last forever, of course, or as long as we do, anyway, and time takes care of some others. A few arrive and depart with hardly a pause in between, like Stealth, the supersonic bomber nobody has ever seen. The man with the scythe pays a call on others. Nobody has ever seen him either, as far as I know.
Because some ships pass in the night doesn’t mean they can’t transfer valuable cargo to us, is there a pill you can take for strangulated analogies? There is a limit to the number of friends one person can have without diluting the mixture. But it is often the case that when a seat at our table becomes vacant, a new friend pops up to fill it. A pop-up friend. Pop that pill.
Alice in Wonderland has Fawn as a fellow traveller, although he runs from her after realising she is a human child. We’ve all met children like that, but probably best to avoid fawns as friends. I was delighted in a Lonely Hearts column once — I was consulting it for a friend — to read the phrase, “Tightrope Walker seeks similar. Object: falling for each other.”
For reasons best known to horticulturalists, friendships, like plants, usually thrive better in the sun. Psychiatrists would probably have some flowery explanation as well. In the natural course of events, we ourselves never see the transient visitors at both ends of our life, the midwives and the pallbearers.
I’ve always been frivolous enough to treat friends lightly, which is a useful self-defense mechanism when you are 75, almost as good as a spring booster. And let’s face it, we were encouraged to declutter our friends during the worst of the pandemic, weren’t we? In a while, crocodile.