A New Friend

I had often seen John, who was the manager of Deighton Bell, the bookshop opposite mine, but I had never spoken to him except to say “Hello!”. One day when I was going up to Edinburgh for a book fair I found myself standing on the railway platform at Peterborough with John. We were both waiting for the train to come in to take us north. We sat in the same carriage and started to talk. By the time we arrived at Edinburgh we were firm friends. This was very rare in my life. I was always looking for people who shared my interests and that indescribable something that enables strangers to get on well from the start. My small number of special friends always started like this.

I was the first “straight” woman friend he had ever had and he found it confusing for him to understand why he became so interested in me, especially since I belonged to what he called “the sex he wasn’t attracted to”. What he said annoyed me somewhat, but on reflection I laughed. After all, I had learned by now that men and women are capable of making friends without being sexually interested and vice versa.

John made me laugh and he was very well read. We spent two holidays together, one in the Scilly Isles and one in Ireland. We both loved the beautiful countryside, we went for long walks and we never stopped talking. He was a true friend and still is although we rarely meet.

I never stopped reading. I was finding out about psychotherapy and all the different kinds. I had developed my own version of speed-reading through learning my own technique for recognising what to read and what to gloss over. Above all others I found myself tuned in to the ideas of Carl Gustav Jung.

Through our friendship, he did two things that helped me forward in my state of confusion. He was undergoing a long term of psychoanalysis with a Freudian analyst. He knew I preferred Jung and he gave me the name of a friend who was a jungian therapist.

I thought in my innocence that it would help me to decide whether I should divorce or not. I got on very well with him and went to see him several times a week for seven years. I don’t really know what I got out of it except that he was my kind of person and we understood each other. What I learned was that, in the long term, we always have to decide for ourselves. I refused to lie on a couch and we spent much of our time laughing, one of the best healers.

The second thing happened on our Irish holiday. We were staying in a small hotel on a very small island. As we were returning from one of our walks, we saw a tall man unloading some fish from a rowing boat. He and his wife and daughter had arrived that day.

He invited us to his table to share the fresh fish he had caught. Afterwards he asked me to go out for a walk with him. He had been watching me over dinner. I never fail to notice such things unlike most people. Clearly he was intrigued by me. He said nothing for a while and then we sat down on a bench facing the sea.

Then he spoke: “What’s bothering you little lady?”. I burst into tears. He waited till I calmed down and then he said “I know a lot about people. I work with them. Tell me if you like.” So I did “I cannot make up my mind whether I should divorce or not.” He paused for a moment and then said some sensible things. “How old are you?” I told him. “You are fifty and a fine-looking woman. You may have happy times in the future with someone else.”

I told him I thought that would never happen. I had tried once or twice and I felt sure that I did not want to marry again. It was something in myself that I needed to sort out.

“Perhaps. You know best about that. But you must take some action. Don’t talk. I’ll tell you what to do. As soon as you get back from this holiday tell your husband at once that you want a divorce. Then buy a local newspaper and look for a flat. You will find one to rent. Then move out. Just do it. I want you to write and tell me when you have done so. I won’t reply. You will never see me again. I just want to know and more important, you need to know that I know.”

John was very curious when we returned from the walk. I told him what had happened. He laughed. “Oh yes. A good looking man tells you to do something and you believe it!”. The next day we left the island and the man we met came down to the shore to see us off. As we drew farther away from the shore He put his hands to his mouth and shouted out “DO IT NOW”.

When I got home I did everything he said. The flat was there ready. Luck or what? How could I know? But it was the right thing at the right time.