Thursday, 11 March 2010

How Not To Make Friends

Have you ever been dropped by someone because of the newspaper you read?
I have. The newspaper in question was (and is, I still read it for preference) by no means any kind of radical, either ultra left or ultra right wing rag; no, it is a nice, sometimes slightly well-meaning, occasionally off-the-wall, middle-of-the-road broadsheet, which likes its arts, literature and well-written and thoughtful editorials, known affectionately for its dodgy proof-readers.

When we first decided to try country living, we moved to the Home Counties (for my non-UK readers: the counties surrounding London). Any new place is slightly daunting at first, it takes some time to get to know the locals, so I was very glad to come across another dog-walker, who said she’d love to team up for walks in the very pleasant countryside surrounding the village.

things that I know nobody told me - about friendship
Rollin Kocsis

We met three or four times for walks before I asked her to tea; we seemed to have quite a lot in common and never ran out of conversation. I was beginning to congratulate myself on my good fortune.

Then we asked both my new acquaintance and her husband to come for drinks, just the two of them. As you do, we talked about what we all do for a living, etc. He was a builder, with his own company; my involvement in an international trade secretariat with a European office didn’t go down too well, whereas Beloved is, of course, a layabout musician. Or so the husband soon appeared to think. We should have smelled a rat when Beloved explained that musicians have the right to a ten minute break in every three hours worked, both in rehearsals and, where possible, during performances and Husband said that he’d sack any of his workers who demanded a break after three hours’ work.

Fair enough, we believe in live and let-live and didn’t take him very seriously. While Wife, Beloved and I drank wine, Husband was very happy with Beloved’s bottle of whisky all to himself. Very happy.

So happy, in fact, that he became quite animated. And then it happened, he took a tour of our 17th century cottage and saw a pile of newspapers on a side table. “Oh my God, they read the **** fill-in-name-of-paper”, turning to his wife, his face by now bright red. (I am glad to say, he had a heart condition) His wife cringed, “yes, I know”, she said, obviously having seen it on previous visits and not dared to inform him of this heinous offence.

She shushed him and asked him to sit down again, which he did. The funny thing was that in spite of his horror at finding himself in the house of subversives and layabouts,  it didn’t stop him from near enough finishing Beloved’s bottle of single malt before they left.

I rang her several times afterwards to make a date for a walk; she was never free.


  1. Hi,
    Please come by my blog and pick up your Beautiful Blogger Award.

  2. The husband sounds like a true jerk, as we say over here.

    I have to admit, I've been taken aback at time to find that someone I've spent time with and enjoyed talking with about non-political matters holds very different political opinions. But we generallly mange to continue our friendship -- staying well clear of dangerous topics.

  3. I have become less and less likely to object to someone's choice of newspaper as I have got older, although I still regard myself as a very political animal. Mostly I can live and let live but would admit that I retain a strong prejudice against one particular not so middle of the road, not so broadsheet. Having said which, a very good friend reads it all the time and we just never talk about it!

  4. Puhleeze be glad that you do not have to nurture that friendship. He is shallow and self-centered and she is stuck with him. I may not like someone's choice of reading material, but if it does not interfere with other things we share, no problem. Now I cannot deal with someone who wears their politics like a badge.

  5. She was probably tied up in her judgments.

    The good news is - you did not have to try to get rid of them like chewed gum off of a shoe. I'm sure you would have tired of them and their narrow perspectives before long, so they did you and Beloved a favour by bowing out of the acquaintanceship.

  6. I'm going to take this a bit seriously, Friko. If I realized that somebody's politics were radically different than mine, that would send a signal that their core beliefs and values were probably also very different. And it's not that I can't get along with people whose beliefs are different, but that too much of a difference reduces the base for a genuine friendship.

    I admit that if I found out that a new acquaintance was enamoured of some neo-Nazi publication, I would not pursue the friendship, because of the red flag that raises. It depends on how extreme the difference is between our points of view. A certain distance is perfectly acceptable, even desirable and certainly interesting, but too much? Hmm. The line is impossible to determine - I just know it when I feel it!!

    On the other hand, I have a friend whose spiritual beliefs are what I would consider utterly irrational, but that hasn't affected our friendship at all, mostly because we share, among other important things, core values.

    This post makes me think! Good one, Friko.

  7. I agreed with what was said above. These people are not tolerant and the husband is a drunk. If someone came to my home and finished a bottle of Cognac I would not think that he was a nice person to know – no manners and with a problem. For the newspaper, well that has happened a lot to me at work, not so much the newspaper as none of the women read one, but TV. They all watched Fox News on their computer and listened to Rush Limbaugh and I did not. So they never included me in their walks. But as Deborah said, their values were different from mine, so I did not mind in the least. I did have one friend who was very religious and super conservative, and did watch Fox News (the propaganda channel around here for super conservative right people) but she was very open and loved to argue about politics. I hope you will find a tolerant person to walk with – you don’t need these people.

  8. I think you are well out of this one, Friko. I suspect that the newspaper is the least of it. As you have demonstrated, these people have no manners and have closed minds.

    You are tolerant and worthy as a friend. They are intolerant and worthless as friends.

    Here on my island there are people who don't walk with me because at one time I was on the board of a low income housing organization.

  9. While I'm all for live-and-let-live, I'm getting to old for wasting time with anyone who's intolerant. I'll chat/visit/dine/debate with the far right, far left and anarchists all, but can't be bothered with the intolerant of any stripe.

  10. Actually, I feel rather sorry for the wife. The two of you obviously got on well and it would appear to me that the lack of subsequent contact is probably at the behest of her obnxious, dick of a husband.
    While my parents kept their own political views very close to their chests, I was brought up with one set of died in the wool Tory grandparents and one set of red flag flying Socialist grandparents. As far as I was aware they all got on like a house on fire. But then they were all far too well mannered not to.

  11. As the saying goes, with friends like these, who needs enemies? I agree that the husband has a closed mind and his wife apparently goes along with it. You are better off walking alone because you are good company.

  12. Herrad - thanks Herrad, you are very kind.

    Vicki Lane - they do say that three subjects are tabu: politics, religion and money.

    elizabethm - thinking about it now I must admit that some of the tabloid readers would probably not be welcome in my house, so I too am a snob in that respect. But that is sooo different, isn't it.

    Tabor - I used to be quite fierce in my political orientation but age has definitely mellowed me. I would never go so far as to make a social issue of it.

    Bonnie - Once we knew it would have been quite impossible to carry on with the relationship, although at the time it didn't seem such a big deal. Beloved and I are people-watchers and we were mainly mused by their antics.

    Deborah - I think we are all showing our own prejudices here. "I don't like your opinions, but I would defend your right to hold them to the death", or words to that effect. No, a new nazi would not be welcome here, or any kind of fanatic, religious or otherwise, but somebody whose opinions were more in line with mine, well I could probably forgive him his fanaticism if pushed very hard. The question is so often one of proportion.

    Vagabonde - this happened a few years ago, so I am quite settled with new walking friends now; although, when you live in many places in rural England, conservatism is the dominant philosophy. I can happily ignore slight differences, it is the crass ones that I described above which are hard to stomach.

    20th century women - live-and-let-live has to be the motto; a small community is bound to throw up differences; so long as we all observe the social niceties and respect people, there should be no problem.
    As for money being the great divider, that's happens everywhere.

    Pondside - can you be far left/right/anarchist and still be tolerant? Somehow I doubt that. Any entrenched opinion makes the holder blind to any kind of reasoning in my opinion.

    eleanors byre - you were lucky; I had one religious and conservative lot and once fiercely communist (a dangerous thing to be in Germany in those days) and never the twain met!
    As for my 'friend', she married him, didn't she.

    Darlene - Ah, but I usually agree with myself, so there's no fun in having a debate!

  13. I can't help feeling a bit sorry for his wife. Friko you are well out of that one. You obviously got along with each other when he wasn't around so perhaps she married in haste. He does not sound like someone I'd like to be stuck with for the rest of my life. And thank Goodness I'm not.

  14. Wow! I hadn't thought about how scary you two are:)

  15. I think it's funny the way he was so overwhelmed by shock that he actually said out loud what he was thinking. The height of rudeness, but also an indication of how deep his silly prejudices run. Then again ... this isn't the Daily Sport you're talking about, is it?.....

  16. mollygolver - I fully expect that he 'suggested' to her that she'd better break off all contact.

    English Rider - scary, us? perfect pussycats, that's us.

    Fran Hill - Damn it, how did you guess? And I thought I'd not given the name away....

  17. Hi;
    Popped over to pay you a visit and thank you for the kind comment on my blog. I had the same situation happen to me! As I'm sure you're aware presidential politics in the US over the last decade has been a nightmare. I rode horses, every morning, with a neighbor woman and we were getting along just fine until she discovered the 'awful truth' that I was a Democrat. People can be so silly sometimes. She shuns me, now, but her horse still likes me. :)

    Loved your story... and a 17th century cottage! How wonderful. I believe the oldest home in my town was built in 1940. :)

  18. Hi Friko
    Amazing story about your erstwhile dog walking friend,
    What prejudice you are better off without people like that around.
    Have a good Friday.

  19. What an amazing picture you do discribe with your words. If seen on TV probably hard to believe. Leaving one pretty much wordless. Yet hope that there will much more of yours.
    What a story.
    Please have you all a wonderful Friday.

  20. You are well rid of that lot! I enjoy owning an apartment in a local hotel that also hosts a gay bar - it keeps certain intolerant breed away...
    But YOU are just my sort.

    Aloha from Hawaii my Friend!

    Comfort Spiral

  21. Oh no..this was pretty amusing, only I'm certain it didn't feel that way! I'm sorry you had to stomach this. That picture suits this quite well. Sadly, its easier for most people to put walls up than build a relationship..dreadfully common I think, but always disappointing!

  22. It's frightening sometimes, just how shallow people can be.

  23. How lucky you were...

    you are better off with the dog..

    Happy days

  24. Hi Friko! I found you via Cloudhands blog, which you visited for the first time, so I had a look at your blog, and just loved what I read! I think we read the same newspaper (don't tell your builder 'friend') When you say 'Arucaria' you do mean crosswords, don't you???

    If I lived down there, I'd join you for a dog walk, no problem!!

  25. I've been dropped for all manner of reasons - witnessing my son's birth, for example - but not, so far as I know, that one.

    An intriguing image, by the way.

  26. Kate -- thank you for calling back. poor you, being a Democrat, indeed.
    A crime!

    Herrad - thanks Herrad, I think so too. Happy weekend to you.

    robert - Glaubst du, so was passiert in Deutschland nicht? Keine Ahnung.
    schoenes Wochenende wuensche ich.

    Cloudia - oh dear, are you sure that's wise? Aloha!

    Kilauea Poetry - Snobs exist everywhere as do people with blinkers and prejudices. I shan't let them worry me.

    Martin H - Isn't it just.

    Delwyn - definitely; the dog loves everybody!

    Gilly - thank you for calling, Gilly. Isn't araucaria great? I think he is the best ever.

    Dave King - dropped for witnessing your son's birth? Who on earth could object to that?

  27. Thanks for calling in at my blog! I've just been reading your profile and I see you like ancient music and plainsong. Now I am the most unmusical person you have ever met, but I love hearing plainsong, and other monkish chants, but how old is your ancient music that you like?? I felt sure a G******* reader would be able to help me!

  28. The Home Counties then was probably a lot more cut-off , and certainly more insular , than where you now live .But rudeness is universal .
    You were remarkably hospitable .I think I would have plucked the glass out of his hand and fetched his coat .

  29. I think you just barely dodged that one! Good riddance, I say. You could have ruined a perfectly good meal before discovering what a bore that guy was.

  30. Ever been told you're going to hell for what you read? I have. That sort of narrow-mindedness is unfathomable.

  31. Gilly - sure I can, no problem. have to say how to get to you.

    Smitonius and Sonata - My problem was that I just couldn't take that sort of behaviour seriously;

    Nancy - Never thought of that, thank goodness it was only drinks, you're right, even if it was 2/3 of a bottle of single malt.

    Mark - best thing is to leave them to it and try and take no notice. There's no arguing with that kind of blinkers, Goethe said, even the gods are powerless in the face of genuine stupidity.

  32. Good evening Friko, and thank you for this post. Your writing skill has shown lots of levels in this tale of countryside entry.

    I won't fill up the comments box with a long expo, but do want to let you know that reading this post of yours does add to my wish that we might meet. Have that glass, cup, and talk, talk, talk.

    My childhood destined me for a value set that I jettisoned as soon as I graduated from university and moved to New York. Has this created decades of difficulties with my family? As Sarah Palin might say for the camera, "You betcha."


  33. well you sound as if you had a very lucky escape a prig married to a bore and good riddance to them! Better to dog walk alone than try to fir into someone elses shoes.

  34. Phew, that was a narrow escape, I reckon, and the newspaper was just a flimsy reason for what was probably usual behaviour.

    I bet that bullying, controlling man made sure his wife didn't make friends of her own - though with his social skills, I wonder if he had many friends either!

  35. Pondside sounds like my kind of person - live and let live, and if people can't give and take a bit of banter, they're not worth cultivating as friends anyway. I like to know how the other half live, personally speaking, so it would take an awful lot for me to decide anyone wasn't worth being friends with - certainly not over their choice of reading matter!
    Have decided that's awfully jumbly - but I guess you'll understand what I meant... think I'll go get a cup of coffee to sharpen my wits...

  36. I'll try again. My first comment seems to have been absorbed by the unknowable. I really enjoyed reading your experience with the besotted husband and his unfortunate wife. At this point in the chain of comments I can only say Ditto to all the above.
    I'm so glad Gilly found you at my place, you will enjoy getting to know her. She is a delight.

  37. My guess: The husband's a drunk and the wife was embarrassed. ...and still is and that's why she avoids you.

    How I identify with Kate's comment! I live in the only county in my state that voted differently from the rest of the state in the 2008 Presidential election. I am one of The Others here. I listen to fanatics all day long, and keep my lip buttoned.

  38. Wow I can honestly say I've never been dropped because of the newspaper I read, that's harsh!

  39. This post is pretty good! And I am enjoying the comments, as well. It appears that many have had similar experiences. Sitting here reading all of this makes me see something in myself: thinking that I can be "inclusive" and reading your account, and realizing that I cannot stand drunks (abusive ones expecially)! Whoops! So much for sisterly love coming from me. I've been shunned for being too "liberal," too "competitive" (for getting excited at soccer games), too soft, too mean...
    heheheee. It's all pretty funny, how we judge one another. Oh well, who's perfect?

  40. Frances - I firmly believe that we all decied our path for ourselves and if that means we have to jettison past teachings, then so be it. Our conscience, our humanity must be our guide.

    her at home - my feet would never fit into someone else's shoes and I don't plan to start having corns now!

    rachel - I expect he had friends of his own ilk; there are lots of bigots and bores around, who are happy to confirm each other's prejudices.

    jinksy - you are obviously a person who likes people and is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt; I get bored too easily with the mass of humanity.

    cloudhands - thank you for coming over and trying twice to comment, you are very kind.

    June - it can be very difficult being the odd-one-out. Maybe talking to like-minded people on the net helps. I hope so, anyway.

    Patty - thanks for coming over and commenting.

    swallowtail - Heavens, if we started to listen to what other people think of us when could we ever be ourselves? You stay true to yourself and that's all that matters.

  41. Greetings from Kentucky (by way of Cloudia's Hawaii). Yes, I've experienced this. I am somewhat of a misfit in the very conservative, Baptist area in which I live. The wife is either very embarrassed by her husband's apparent alcoholism, or it is possible she is entirely controlled by the lout of a husband she has.

  42. Junosmum - whatever, I am certainly glad that I no longer have to have anything to do with either of them.

  43. Keep the faith-you'll find another walking buddy soon.


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