[To listen to an audio version of this blog please click here: http://bit.ly/2g72jjR]
Second day at senior school. Everything was so big. The classrooms were immense, the hall was cavernous, the corridors never-ending. The big boys hulked in corners, exuding slouching menace and the journeys from one lesson to another were terrifying.
I had already decided I didn't like the teachers. I didn't like anyone in my form. The girl next to me had stolen my pencil case. The boys on the bus had pulled my pigtails and called me four-eyes.
There was only one good thing about this new school and that was the school uniform. No – I didn't like the scratchy grey skirt, I had not got to grips with the tie and the purple was a bit much to take. But – oh glory – the pockets of that hideous blazer were just the right size to hold a paperback book.
Lunch time. We queued up in a straggly line for grey liver and lumpy mashed potato. There were rumours that a toenail had once been found in those potatoes. My stomach clenched in a knot just thinking about it. I joined the meandering tail end and pulled out my book. Head down, meeting the eyes of no one, I lost myself in adventure.
Only to bump hard into someone. Someone like me who also had their head down in a book. I took a surreptitious look at the title and gasped. "You're reading Biggles too!"
And thus was a friendship formed. Marcelle has been my best friend for forty-two years. There have been times when we have been geographically far apart, even times when circumstances meant we have not spoken for months; but when we do meet – even after years apart, within twenty minutes we are finishing each other's sentences.
It was she who watched the Stephen Fry documentary with me. She has known I have bi-polar disorder since we were thirteen. She read a Spike Milligan biography and thought, "Oh, that explains Mary." She didn't tell me; she thought I knew. (I didn't.)
At the beginning of summer, she phoned. "Can you come round on Tuesday?"
She explained that she had been suffering with depression and her therapist had pointed out that her support network had eroded. Her children had married and moved away. A close friend had moved away. Her parents were aging. She needed to be proactive in building up that network again and she had thought of me.
So, every Tuesday now, I go over and we walk her little dog and talk. It's two hours of therapy for both of us – even if we can never remember exactly what we talk about. We talk families, books, theology, books, current affairs, books, friends and yes, books. We are both still voracious readers.
I know am lucky to have such a true friend: not everyone does and I value her friendship more than I can say. I know she values me too.
I am her best therapy and she is mine. That's what friends are for.
A Moodscope member.