Friendships and fags

The good news about her friend being clear of cancer had meant that an entire day had been spent just feeling happy. It got the woman to thinking about what happiness actually is and how much friendships play a part in that happiness. For her, it had always been about her friends and at times in her youth, her mother had accused her of caring more about her friends than her family. It wasn't quite true of course. She did love her family. It was just that her friendships had always felt more reliable somehow.

That's a bit harsh she thought to herself. Is is actually true? Does it even matter? What is the actual point of making comparisons between people and relationships? Once more, she was struck by her capacity to ask herself big questions first thing in the morning but she felt a deep need to understand. She wanted to understand people. Wanted to make the most of the time she spent with people she knew and cared for because time was the only thing that couldn't be replaced or replicated. In a world moving at pace, taking a moment seemed a necessary luxury.

Can we even have necessary luxuries she wondered? Are friendships a luxury or a necessity? She had grown up in what might be described as a fairly ordinary setting. Mum, Dad, sister. Both parents worked, they had bought their first house in the early 70s for four thousand pounds and the woman had grown up taking it for granted that she would be fed, clothed, cared for and educated. There had been no need for state support and she hadn't become aware of a state system until she left home at 18.

That was the real luxury she thought. Being able to leave home and rent a room in a house for fifty quid a week whilst going to work from 9 till 5 and then having evenings and weekends free. As it was, her route to university had been a circuitous one because she had always been a bit rebellious and had refused to go at 18, choosing instead to become a sales rep for a tobacco company. It meant a brand new company car, insurance and petrol paid, and she was able to swank around in late 80s power suits selling cigarettes to newsagents. She was given a personal allowance of 400 cigarettes a week and this made her a popular guest at her best friend's house because her mum smoked incessantly in between drinking endless cups of tea and reminising about her childhood in Ireland. The woman didn't realise at the time but her friend's mum was deeply homesick and had spent a lifetime in London wishing she was back home in Cork. Tragic really to wish one's life away. She was glad she didn't feel that way.

University happened because carelessness meant her company car was stolen. Well, it was less that it was stolen and more that someone took the opportunity of driving off in the flashy car that had been left outside the shop with its engine running. To be fair, anyone would've taken it she supposed. It was before the days of mobile phones and the woman could still recall coming out if the shop and seeing that the car had gone. She had parked at the bus stop, opened the boot to get the fags and presumably given the waiting passengers a sense of opportunistic adventure. Less than a minute and the car was gone. It was a tough one to explain to the boss when she eventually found a way to get home. She blagged another chance but when something similar happened fortnight later, she was left with few options.

In the early 90s, being sacked or leaving a job without a reference meant you couldn't easily stroll into another role and you couldn't sign on the dole. What she could do was go to university and although it had been humming around in the background, now it became the only way forward. She got in to the local polytechnic that had just been upgraded to university status and so began the adventure of her lifetime.

She left behind the pub life that had been her evenings and weekends and went off to study literature and humanities, Within three months she had met the woman who would shape the course of her life and through her, she met people she hoped she would know for the rest of her life. It was 30 plus years ago and she could happily say, some of those people were still very much present. So perhaps that's what happiness is she thought. Being connected to people who you grow with.