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These pages are a collection of stories from the Writer's Group at Box Hill U3A.

In the Company of Friends

"I'm not gunna be your friend anymore", she said. "Why not"? I asked, tears puddling in my eyes. "Coz", she replied, and ran off. When I went home and told my mother, I remember crying my eyes out. "She was my best friend", I said. "Ever, ever", I continued, to make sure she knew how important this was. "Why was she so nasty"? I was about eight years old, and the future without Wendy seemed bleak. My mother tried her best to explain the vagaries of friendship, but I was too distraught to take on board her assurances that I would find another best friend before too long.

It turned out to be quite awhile, actually. Something must have happened in my brain after that event, or maybe I was just destined to be a bit solitary as a child. I did have friends, but they came and went. Either they didn't have Wendy's magic or I wasn't willing to put my heart and soul on the line again. Eventually, my simplistic child-like view of things, matured, so making friends and keeping them was less of a problem.

Now, that's not to say I haven't had some issues with friends, or so-called friends. And the question that follows is -what is a friend? Someone you like to talk with, spend time with, usually a person you have known for awhile? Well that's what I think, but others might disagree - more of that later. Because I have to tell you, I did find another best friend, although she wouldn't like that term, so I always say she's my closest friend. We met at University: both of us being mature-age students, drew us together, but we are very different. So why are we such good friends? I suspect most of it is down to her tolerance of my idiosyncrasies, much more than any charity on my part. Nevertheless, as long as it works I'll be happy and grateful for the blessing of a really good friend.

On a different note I guess I've been lucky that there has been only one person whom I, and she, regarded as a best friend, but who turned out to be a Wendy. It happened years ago, but I can't forget it and I didn't have a mother to run and cry to. It wasn't as if I'd said or done anything to bring on the chill in her voice and her reluctance to meet as we had once done. I did question the incredible change in her behaviour. "Tell me what's wrong, please", I said, a number of times, and always got the same answer -"Nothing". I suppose that was the adult version of "Coz". Having seen her through divorce, cancer and other major and minor calamities, I was devastated.

We do get over our losses in life, and move on, thankfully. And this brings me back to the question posed before -what is a friend? For me the most important aspect of friendship is the wonderful sense of wellbeing when in the company of that friend. Hence I was absolutely horrified to read an article in the Herald Sun newspaper the other day. The female reporter was writing about social networking and iphones. She noted she was a lover of Twitter and said one of its benefits was "It's company".

What a sad indictment of modern society it is when somebody can refer to, and obviously consider, an inanimate object as "company". The way is now open for some enterprising inventor to come up with a phone that feels like human flesh, or maybe one with synthetic dog or cat fur. That one could perhaps bark or purr when it's touched.

Goldie Fox