I have never been that good at making friends really. I can do the chit chat that you do when you meet someone for the first time, the starting of a conversation with a stranger, but after that I get a bit lost. I'm not very good at inviting people over for dinner, or organising play dates for the kids. I envy those people who seem to have reams of good friends, and manage to keep up with them all despite the chaos of their own lives. Having a large circle of friends has always begged the question for me, of how you define a friend.
The advent of social networking sites adds to this inquisition. Some people claim to have hundreds of friends; but these are just people you know. To me, that's not a friend. A friend is someone close, someone you don't mind telling your secrets to, someone you can call at 2am and ask them to fetch you from A&E. A friend is someone you want to call when it feels like your world is falling apart; or when you have the most unbelievably good news. Think about it for a minute: count up how many people you would call if you just found out your partner has been having an affair; or if you just got made redundant. Who would you call if you just won 50000 pounds?
The other night I went to the first meeting of a reading group that I have just set up. It was lovely: there were people there I knew from work, and a few people who I haven't met before. My best friend came with me and afterwards she said, 'you work with some lovely people'. And it struck me that these aren't just people I work with, these are my friends. I like these people, and they like me: they like me enough to come out on a hot and sticky night and drive to a cafe to support a reading group I have set up. Perhaps, we are often surrounded by friends without quite realising it, and those 140 people we have as friends on facebook, we should keep in touch with, cultivate their friendship - you never know - you may want to ring them next week with some news!