Day Fourteen - Appreciative August
Jill and I were born in the same hospital two days apart and have been friends pretty well ever since.
Mum was recuperating from my arrival ("Ooh she's a nine pounder, Mrs Read, and with those long fingers she'll be good at fielding in the slips"), and was aware of the Kuchel commotion - two babies had arrived instead of one, so an extra set of everything was needed. Yep, in 1968 having twins was still an utter surprise.
Jill's been there with me through school, slumber parties, 18ths, 21sts, weddings, holidays, babies, renovations, work hassles and blokes.
She's made me ride on the back of the motorbike wearing thongs, only to take me through paddocks of Freisian cows where she'd lean over and I'd instinctively put my foot down - right into sludgy green manure. She sat through our very first ladies' night strip tease show with me ("God, how many dicks do we have to see? They're so ugly"), blushed profusely as she was shoved atop a mechanical bull when the Old Lion was a barn of a pub ("Hey, look at her GO - she's the winner tonight!") and gallantly offered me a jumper to wrap around my waist when I innocently emerged from the cinema with a crotch full of melted choc top chocolate.
She outdrank my Lincoln College mates and wooed a houseful of partygoing blokes with her expert Ashes commentary at 3am. A boxer she met on a wild holiday in Scotland followed her out to Australia and she recently crashed her German penpal's 40th birthday - they'd started writing to each other when they were nine years old. She and I have sung our lungs out to mix tapes in her little brown Chrysler as we'd hoon up the Princess highway from Murray Bridge to Adelaide on the weekends and she let me hide out in her Lockley's flat for a week to lick my wounds from a broken and humiliated heart.
I could go on - but there are mates for different stages of our lives. They don't always start out that way, or end that way or even last the distance, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Work mates can be the very key to surviving a day, yet fade away when jobs are taken elsewhere and there's no longer a boss in common to imitate or moan about.
My lovely friend Catherine started life as my boss before going on maternity leave and returning to find me the boss. Our friendship remains, for more reasons than merely because it was impossible for us to moan about our managers. I've seen her become a parent, a respected expert in her career field, a gifted decorator and a single mother with more dignity, strength and success than a truckload of millionaire supermodels. She's seen a lot of sorrow and disappointment in her life, yet handles it all with honesty and elegance.
Jo and I met on the very first night at Lincoln College. We were two nervous country kids about to start uni, so we did what came naturally - drank ourselves silly with cheap port in the President's room before staggering back to our own tiny dogboxes and swearing friendship forever. Bad instant coffee, eating Milo straight from the tin and holding each other up during pub crawls meant that we were destined to share a house for a few years after uni had finished. Our lives then went their separate ways - different states, countries, careers, hobbies and love, of course. Never our friendship though. Funny to think after over twenty years that we now only live 2 kilometres away from each other. She may have conquered Everest and me merely chocolate, but she still has to wrangle her nearly-two year old away from our chook house and I'll serve her cake using the same plates we had back in our Hackney house in 1988.
Mum's a mate too. We didn't see eye-to-eye in my teenage years and not because I was on drugs, in a cult or off the rails. She was beautiful, feminine and into singing, sewing and netball and I was sturdy, intellectual, obsessed with tennis and about as musical as a mud crab.
As the years have progressed it seems as though we have both bent a little, slowly, towards each other. It was Mum, a mostly stay-at-home mother of three, who saw me struggling to work 60+ hours a week and fight the guilt by devoting the remainder of my time to Sapphire, who said, "You don't have to be a martyr, Kath. You can say 'no' to Sapphire and not feel like you're a bad mother." We can go shopping and enjoy the experience. I can tease her about 'Twilight Trousers' and she can laugh at my favourite fabric colour: "Oh there's a surprise, you're reaching for the black one, aren't you?" We can play Rummy-O and she'll end up laughing so hard she'll fart, which makes me laugh and her laugh even harder until we're both in tears. Any generational gap is filled in with respect, humour, help and love.
85 year old Jack, who slopes off to Koster Park for a sly cigarette away from his wife and to have a yarn with Milly and me;
Betty, who made me a pot of soup after I'd returned home from wisdom teeth butchery;
Doctor Ian, who hugged me when I had only been in the job for a week and was crying over the death of our dog Tess;
Karate sensei Naomi, a combination of arse-kicker and kind heart;
Auntie Wendy, a struggling survivor who brings half a garden with her when she arrives for dinner;
Richard, my mate ever since we debt-collected and drank together in Herts;
John and Rebecca, enduring over eighteen years, two jobs and three kids between us;
Kirstie, who I didn't give the job to, but respected my decision anyway with maturity and continuing humour.......
And other mates, who have seen me through living in London - Tracey, Amanda, Siobhan, Steve, Amber; Darwin - Karen, Kym, Alex, Jenny and Mimi; Melbourne - Bill, Ian, Taka, Justine, Richard, Sophie, Philip, Nancy, Dave; and back to Adelaide - Jill, Kent, Catherine, Jo, Sam, David, Wendy, school families, blasts from the pasts, neighbours, suburb sharers, workmates......
I hope I've made youse as happy as youse have all made me.
* 'Mates' is meant in the Australian sense, as in good friends, top buddies. NOT as in the sexual act, present tense: "He mates with the female, who then bites off his head and eats it."