My mind meanderings took me to a dinner conversation back in 1985. The Father of a girl I was dating was reflecting on the family Christmas lunch 2 years prior and his Politician Brother who asked everyone to name at least 5 of their closest most trusted and loyal friends. Some found this relatively easy, several found it extremely difficult. It was only the Politician who was able to freely reel off 10 plus names.
At Christmas lunch the following year, the Father of the girl I was dating deciding to test a theory, asked the same question about the closest friends. Everyone was able to more easily answer including the Politician Brother who reeled of 10 or 12 names.
The thing is, those 10 or 12 names with 2 exceptions were different to those cited the previous year.
The theory was proven. Some people have passing friendships, collaborations of convenience or acquaintances where perhaps one seeks to take some advantage from the other.
True friendships survive hardship, conflict and celebration at different times and to differing degrees.
True friendships are supportive, non-judgemental, honest and power agnostic.
True friendship involves communication, apologies, unconditional acceptance, congratulating achievements and accepting failures.
They also involve sharing of success, assets, emotions and wellbeing.
I am indeed blessed that for much of the last 40 years, I could have instantly provided 7 names if asked the “name the friends question”.
I met Ian in February 1971 during our first days at Camberwell High. Through him, I met Peter who he played Hockey with at Kew (I was at Camberwell Hockey Club).
Ian was also a Yachtsman and would go on to represent Australia including at the Admirals Cup. A fellow dingy sailor was Les.
Ted was also at Camberwell High however it was not for some years that we struck up any sort of friendship but it wasn’t close. Ted left school after year 11 but re-emerged after meeting Jenny (now wife of 30 plus years) by way of dropping in one night and subsequently becoming part of the Friday night Palace social scene.
Michael and Mathew are a few years older and as well as going to Kew High School, also played hockey at Kew. Both represented Australia at Masters level.
Brett came to Camberwell High in year 11, knew many people already and drifted in to our social set.
Hockey was the most common thread and non players Les, Brett and Ted weren’t averse to joining the off field festivities at Echuca and Albury carnivals and various other related functions.
We considered Victorian Bitter to be the drink of choice and with the exception of Michael, demonstrated how bullet proof we were by supporting the products of WD & HO Wills.
Motivated by Matthew, we also began to learn a little about the delights of red wine.
A common excursion was to Lake Eildon for House Boating and Water Skiing. Along with girl friends of the time, we would race to meet at the Golden Trout Hotel on a Friday night before travelling in convoy to the house boat mooring at Jerusalem Creek. Entry to the houseboat was subject to each male presenting a slab (carton) of VB and a flagon of Penfold Royal Reserve Port. And so would begin a weekend of fun, laughter, love, BBQ’s, eggs and bacon, water skiing, exploring estuaries, beer, port and exploding stones in the camp fire.
And much conversation, often trivial but also deep, thoughtful and meaningful conversation.
Queens Birthday long weekend in the middle of the Victorian Winter was an Eildon fixture escape for many years. We would ski in the cold of the Lake with none of the other boat traffic of the summer months. We were in our heaven.
Last Thursday night (7 November), we all convened at one of our old haunts, The Harp of Erin Hotel in Kew, before travelling the next day to Lake Eildon. Two now live in Queensland and another two in Tasmania.
There, we spent 4 days reminiscing, reflecting, supporting, challenging and conversing. We addressed the past, present and the future equally. We debated and discussed all kinds of topics ranging from the changes in our life time in gender matters, men’s health including mental health, travel experiences while always returning to our children and grandchildren.
There were many laughs and just a few tears too.
In reality, not too much had changed.
Those leaning to the right of the political spectrum were still that way inclined as were those on the left and to the middle.
The skills some have to recall every joke ever told were still present as were those with the one line put down.
Along with the odd Victoria Bitter came several superb red wines and just a little of Epernay’s finest Champagne.
48 years on, it is hard to reflect on such a gathering. There were no harsh words, arguments or nastiness.
I was looking for words to describe how I was feeling about the 4 days and of all the emotions being processed, there was one that dominated.
Overwhelmingly, I had a feeling of “gratefulness”.
To be with such a diverse group of people, with friends 48 years on from when we first started to come together represents a part of my life for which I am truly grateful.
And to the question “what does friendship mean”?
It means mutual respect, understanding, forgiveness, support and honesty all of which enables communication by conversation.
I am convinced the most important and most valuable ingredient to our enduring friendship is conversation.
Equally, I am convinced this necessary friendship ingredient is gender neutral. It applies to all true friendships.
Ian, Michael, Peter, Matthew, Ted, Les and Brett, thank you, it has been an honour and is one I look forward to enjoying, contributing to and drawing from for many years to come.
|L to R Brett, Peter, Ian, Ted, Colin Front Row Les, Michael, Matthew|
|Peter, Matthew, Michael, Les and Brett take in the serenity|
|Matthew, Michael, Colin and Brett using French fluids to keep out the cold|
|By the fire - Ian watched by Les (back of Peter's head)|