Is friendship timeless?
I have recently returned from Bayonne in the south of France where I was participating in a rugby tour, the specialness of the occasion generated by the fact it was a 25 year anniversary tour of the Prague Barbarians Rugby club, a very social club that was fortunate to have more than a few very good players, most of us well past our best but still in love with the game and the camaraderie it produces.
It was a fitting tribute to the love we all felt for the club that people travelled from all over the world to join in, we had people from Hong Kong, New Jersey, Minnesota, France, Poland, Latvia, England and of course Ireland. I am fortunate enough to be in regular contact with several of these but others I had not seen in twenty years and I found it stunning how easily we just slipped back into the old roles and how the banter had pretty much stayed the same.
What is the nature and measure of friendship that this occurs? Why is there no awkwardness? Surely after twenty years we have all changed, single men are now married, fathers are now grandfathers, married men are now single but all of that seems irrelevant, just when you feel you are all grown up and mature you get all giggly at some of the practical jokes that are played (due to the diverse readership I will not go into specifics). It is so reassuring, in a world which changes so rapidly these days, that a man that you knew twenty years ago, as a good man, is still a good man, that a phrase that you laughed at all those years ago still makes you giggle and sometimes it’s not the chat that is so nice, it is the comfortable silences, to sit outside with an old friend and enjoy a bloody good Coffee and have no need to fill the silence, on the contrary, to actually enjoy the silence is a truly heart-warming feeling.
I think as men we are generally crap at making friends, it helps if there is a communality of interest, like sport, to help break the ice and forge a bond but I also feel that men deep down know this so we hold on to friendship hard, realising how precious it is and unfortunately how rare. Once you get to a certain age and sport is no longer the available to be used as a hammer to break the social barrier then we, as men, often fail to make friends and often social gatherings feel like the first day at a new school, you are awkward and nervous and angry that you should feel this way at your age but society and possibly men themselves have created a persona that we all use, men are strong, we are tough, we don’t show emotion and we never ask for help and that is so unhealthy. I get sad and often use the tactic of an emotional film to have a cry, I get lonely and probably have not made a new real friend in twenty years but I am lucky and last weekend in Bayonne showed me how lucky I am because real friends are like a Labrador loyal until death and in the case of rugby players as smelly as one.
I have returned to Ireland with a nasty cough and a very full heart and the determination to make one new friend this year, I have absolutely no idea how to do that (and that is part of the problem) but I will not fail for lack of trying.
One last thing, I am sure everyone knows a strong man, maybe in the office or even in your family but perhaps he is not as strong as we think and perhaps just perhaps we all might try to reach out a little bit (no need to get touchy feely) maybe next time you go on a coffee run get him one without asking, just plonk it on his desk and give him a smile, just try and take an extra step closer to him because he might not know how to do it himself.
As always this is just an opinion and even more than that it is only my opinion, now you are here perhaps you might take the time to have a look at some of the goodies I sell.
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