Friends, as that theme tune goes, will always be there for us. Which is why this Galentine's Day we're celebrating the ones we can't live without
Words by Nicola Gill
Our society so venerates romantic love that I think we sometimes undervalue the love between friends. And yet friendship, and more specifically female friendship, is a powerful and life-changing thing. It’s an idea I’ve explored in my novel The Neighbours and it’s something I never forget in real life. So here’s a shout out to some of my incredible mates.
The one who knows everything
Hedy and I first met on the school bus. She was one of the cool kids, I… wasn’t. Despite this we quickly became inseparable and since then we’ve been through A LOT together. One of our favourite games is trying to imagine bringing a new person up to speed with everything.
Hedy has always been full of wise advice, but ten years ago retrained as a child and adolescent psychotherapist, which does – I have to say – give her parenting advice even more of a punch. One of the things that astounds me when we’re together is just how much there is to say. We can talk non-stop for three hours and then, on the way home, I’ll still remember something vital I forget to tell her.
My day job is working as an advertising creative, and in that world, it’s usual for copywriters and art directors to work as a team. You often end up spending more time with your creative partner than the person you’re married to so it helps if you like each other!
As soon as I met Sally, I knew that wasn’t going to be a problem. We made each other laugh, worked well together and always had each other’s backs. Advertising creative departments are traditionally blokey (yes, still) and it was wonderful to have another woman to eye roll at where necessary (often). When I had my oldest son Charlie and decided to take a bit of time away from full-time work, one of the only things I really missed was Sally.
The mum friend
I first met Debra because our youngest sons were at nursery together (something Max likes to remind me of often: You’d never have met Debra if it wasn’t for me), and it quickly became clear that we were just as firm friends as the boys – even if I didn’t cry when I couldn’t sit next to her (usually) or insist that if I was Buzz she was Woody,.
She was ridiculously supportive about my attempts to get a publishing deal and thought nothing of striking up a conversation with someone on the number 12 bus if she thought they were a literary agent. For as long as I can remember, Debra and her family have come to us for Boxing Day and the ‘kids’ have made it clear that this is something that must continue even when they’re all married with children of their own.
The age gap friend
The two main characters in The Neighbours become friends despite a big age gap and, like them, I don’t think age is any barrier to friendship. In fact, although Caroline may not be pleased to hear me say this, I often forget she’s seventeen years younger than me. We met through work and quickly realised we shared the same sense of humour, a similar outlook on life and, crucially, an addiction to Married at First Sight, although only the American one. Before long, Caroline had started to refer to me as her ‘work mum’. Hmm, seems like it’s only me that forgets the difference in age.
Obviously, Caroline and I are at different stages of life. But that doesn’t mean we can’t understand each other’s ups and downs. And it also means I get to ‘borrow’ her baby girl when I need to.
The mentor friend
Not only is Gemma a brilliant mate, but she’s also always one of the first people I get to look at early drafts of my books (also, during particularly insecure phases, emails and even tweets). Feedback is a tricky thing for writers. We know we need it, pretend to like it but often find it difficult to hear. Which is why it’s important to show work to the right people. Let’s face it, it’s unlikely my mum will be brutally honest. Gemma is honest but not brutal and, as an excellent writer and editor, very good at pointing me in the right direction. She read about a zillion early drafts of The Neighbours and there aren’t enough Negronis in the world to thank her properly!
* Nicola Gill’s debut novel, The Neighbours (Avon), is available in all formats now