Home / articles / The Kindness of Friends

The Kindness of Friends

Sunrise, today, 12th December 2017

(the little white marks on the left aren’t UFOs, but reflection of my camera in the windowpane)

The above photograph was the view from our sitting room about 7am this morning.  I love to see the changing light and there was a streak of dark pink just above the horizon, as if the sky had received some expensive blusher. 

I would like to start by thanking all of you for your kind good wishes. I am feeling much better but this cough and cold is really tenacious, it’s claws have been deeply embedded and it has been very reluctant to release them.  However, last night I slept for the first time in six nights and woke feeling if not thoroughly refreshed, at least better than I have done in more than two weeks.

Indeed, I’d forgotten quite how awful the common cold can make you feel and even now I feel tired and, as yet, unable to make a start on all that now needs to be accomplished before Christmas. But hey, why worry?  If things aren’t done, then they aren’t done.  None of it really matters.

I must tell you, first of all, that I have heard this week from a very dear friend.  But first, a little background information.  The friendship started when I was sent, about 20 years ago, by our county magazine to cover an event at my friend’s country house hotel (or “friends’ hotel” as she owned it jointly with her husband.)  We had not met before and even though on this occasion she and her husband had to deal with lots of media people from TV, radio and the newspapers, we hit it off right away as the saying goes and it was the beginning of our friendship. Not only that, they kindly invited us to stay, not only as journalist-and-husband but also as friends, often test-driving newly refurbished rooms so that we could point out – if there were any – little snags that needed attention.  And then, in 2015, they sold their hotel and emigrated to Australia.  At that time they hadn’t a forwarding address so I couldn’t write to them, and as time went on I thought, well perhaps they want to cut all ties with the UK and start afresh, and if that’s the case, so be it.

But this wasn’t the case.  In her Christmas card my friend says they have been settling in during the past 18 months and who would’ve thought retirement could be so busy?  Well, all of us who are retired could’ve told them that, couldn’t we?  Not only was I (and also my husband) delighted to have heard from her, but also she has sent me a lovely little pouch/make-up bag, one made by Artists of Yuendumu, and royalties from their products directly benefit the artist and their community.

Even though we’re more than 12,000 miles apart, what’s a few miles between friends?  True friendship transcends distance, doesn’t it?

Indeed, it is the kindness of friends that make our lives special, isn’t it?  I have also received a gift from another friend, who knew I had recently bought some blue & white Burleigh pottery and so when she saw a packet of their paper napkins, she bought them and sent them to me.

Please don’t think I am implying that friendship means receiving a present; I love to hear from friends regardless of such things, but how lovely when, out of the blue, something arrives in the post indicating that someone has thought of you.

Right now, my husband is doing the ironing.  That isn’t just friendship, it’s simply being practical but also showing thoughtfulness while I’ve been unwell.  He also made breakfast for us and, for once, we had a cooked breakfast as this is an exception, not the rule:  as there was some cold mashed potato left from yesterday’s supper, he fried that and we enjoyed it with a fried egg.  Oh, after not wanting any food for several days, how good it tasted. I must be on the mend!

Coincidences always amaze me.  Our card from our friends in Australia mirrors so much detail of the card I have chosen to give to our little grandson this Christmas.  OK, the Australian card has a ‘snowman’ made from sand (a ‘sandman’?) but, my goodness, the similarities:  the stance of Father Christmas, the hat on the snowman, even his expression!

Soon, some home-made tomato and courgette soup will have heated through for our lunch, and then I will curl up and read the paper.

I will leave you for now with a photo of the lovely white hyacinths that are scenting our sitting room.

I’ve had to prop them against the wall to prevent their heavy blooms from falling over, but oh, how lovely to have the scent of hyacinths again!

Until next time.

About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

Check Also


People have often asked me who has been most influential in English interior design, both on …


  1. Greetings Margaret. I’m happy to see that you are feeling better and back to writing your lovely posts. Colds can be very uncomfortable indeed. This is such a lovely story you have shared about your dear friend. I have a dear blog friend that I correspond with and yet we are thousands of miles apart and have never met. Those napkins are perfect match to your beautiful new blue and white dishes. I hope you have a good day and please take care of yourself. Pat

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, the cold has been a really nasty one this time, Pat. I used to think people who complained about the common cold were wussy, but not any more! How lovely that you, too, have a blog friend with whom you correspond even though you are both thousands of miles apart. Thank you so much for your good wishes and I’m glad you are continuing to enjoy my posts.

  2. Eloise (thisissixty.blog)

    Oh hyacinths. Their scent is so beautiful. My mother always had some at Christmas time.

    So glad to hear that you are properly on the road to recovery. It’s not like you to go four days without a post – your fans are calling for the restoration of normal service – please!

    Yes, friendship is important. I value my friends greatly and enjoy spending time with them. I try to be a good friend but too often find myself apologising for being busy. But I think they know that when they need me, I’ll be there. Little gifts are often the most thoughtfully chosen ones.

    • Margaret Powling

      Oh, Eloise, you are funny – restoration of normal service, ha ha! I do hope there won’t be such a delay next time, but if we want to keep up the televisual analogy, then I might be compelled to put on an ‘Interlude’! Who can remember the kitten playing with the ball of wool, or the potter’s wheel? For those very much younger than myself, television in the 1950s wasn’t 24/7 (such an awful expression, sorry … I mean “all day long”) It often stopped for a little while between programmes, and an Interlude film would be shown (today it would be said to be “aired”). This allowed viewers time to make a cup of tea or even put the children to bed.
      Yes, as with you, I often find myself apologising for being busy. I must try and make more time for keeping my friendships in good repair (I think I’m roughly quoting Dr Johnson; even if this isn’t quite what he said, this was the gist of it.)

      • Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

        I remember the ‘test card’ which seemed to fill the screen most of the day, apart from ‘Watch with Mother’. Can you remember ‘Listen with Mother” on the radio?

        • Margaret Powling

          Oh, yes, Listen with Mother was on the radio (or the wireless as we called it in the early 1950s, not meaning wireless at all, because I think it had rather a lot of wires in it!) I also remember Larry the Lamb on the radio and there was a space adventure called Return to the Lost Planet and, of course, Jennings and Darbishire (two little boys at a prep school always getting into ‘scrapes’). I was too old to watch early little one’s TV, such as Andy Pandy and The Woodentops, I thought they were babyish, and of course, Annette Mills and Muffin the Mule (a puppet who used to dance on top of the piano while Annette sang.) It was all very innocent and all the better for it, I think.

  3. So good that you are on the mend Margaret. Colds can be tenacious! I am reticent to say this, but … here goes… there is a vitamin c product in a packet, highly potent, that you just pop onto your tongue to digest it. I used it when I was very sick with hayfever from Privet trees, and it was amazing. At the chemists they told me that whenever they are around sick people, or feel the first signs of being unwell, they take one sachet. I was advised, for the allergy, to take 1 morning, evening, and next morning. I have been noticing that I am not at present being affected by the privet even though I only took the vit c for one session.

    Yes, down under we have sunny Christmases. Many former Brits living in New Zealand like to have a picnic Christmas lunch or barbeque on the beach. Us spoilt NZers, have get-togethers in our own homes …. we are more blase about the beach.

    • Margaret Powling

      Right, Ratnamurti, I will try and find this special Vit C sachet. I’ve heard that at the first sign of a cold, a good dose of Vit C might prevent it from developing. How awful to have hayfever from privet trees! I used to have hayfever when I was much younger but the older I became it became less and less each year and now I don’t have it, thank goodness.
      Oh, how funny, having a barbecue on the beach instead of a Christmas lunch at home! I really don’t think I’d like a hot Christmas, but I think it’s a case of what you are used to, and I really don’t think you’d like our cold weather right now. Parts of the UK were -13C last night, colder than Moscow! This kind of cold doesn’t usually last long so we’re not as prepared for it as in, say, Canada, and therefore school close and roads are treacherous as there are insufficient snow ploughs or gritters. We’ve not had the snow yet, but much of the UK is now covered with the white stuff. When we have it we know it’s Very Cold Indeed!

  4. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    So glad you are feeling better Margaret, nothing worse than a cold keeping you up all night.
    What a lovely surprise hearing from your friends, we have had close friends over the yeara who have just drifted away from us, even when we still tried to keep in touch, some people seem to think when you move away that’s the end of the friendship which is sad. Isn’t it nice to have a good husband, that’s where the vows come into it “In sickness and in health” Bless him, send your husband around later please, I have ironing to do.

    • Margaret Powling

      I could keep husband gainfully employed sending him around to do people’s ironing, Marlene! What is more, he’s very good at it. He knows not to shrivel fine materials! Seriously, he the very embodiment of our wedding vows. Mind you, I think I might’ve slipped up on the odd occasion regarding the woman’s “obey” bit, for it was “obey” in my day! But I don’t think he’s noticed, ha ha!
      While feeling better for the main part of the day, this evening I’m beginning to feel clagged up again, but no doubt this cold will just take it’s time and when it’s ready to depart, when another likely host presents him- or herself, it will just latch on to them.

  5. Hello Margaret, it’s good to see you posting again and to hear that you are feeling better!
    What a lovely thing to have heard from your friend and to know that all is well in her life, I recently met up with someone I used to be very close to in my 20’s and 30’s, nothing had happened to upset the friendship, life had simply got in the way and we had drifted apart. It was so good to see her again and to catch up on our lives, we have promised to make more of an effort to stay in touch and not leave it so long next time.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, Elaine, that’s what often happens, isn’t it? Life gets in the way, we move away, or the friend does, and suddenly it’s Christmas and birthday cards, then just Christmas cards and before you know it, we suddenly think, “I wonder what happened to so-and-so …” No rift happened, we just stopped being in touch. How lovely that you met a friend from long ago and I hope you will keep in touch. And thank you, it’s nice to be back posting again.

  6. So glad you are feeling better. Sometimes we forget how debilitating a cold can be. How lovely to see your little pouch from our talented Aboriginal artists. My bridesmaid and her husband spent a few years at Yuendumu as missionaries many years ago.
    Your hyacinths are lovely.
    We are preparing for a hot Christmas here but still like to celebrate with a traditional cooked lunch rather than embracing our climate with salads etc.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, I’d quite forgotten how awful a cold can be, Pieta! This one has knocked me for six, but I’m getting over it. I think I have felt so bad because I’m older. Were 20, 30 or 40 years younger, it mightn’t have been so debilitating.
      Yes, the little pouch is a delight, with such vibrant colours, I love it! But I wonder what missionaries actually do? Are they on a mission to turn other cultures into Christians, I wonder? I might seem naïve here, but I really have no idea. I’m not of any faith except that we have one life and must live it to the full, but that means in any way we wish which doesn’t harm others, so while I mightn’t travel and have no real wish to, I do try and live each day fully, engaging with friends, making meals for myself and husband, reading, walking, taking photographs, but not sitting moping.
      Oh dear, sorry Pieta, but I don’t envy you a hot Christmas Day. It wouldn’t seem like Christmas to me unless we were cold and were looking forward to mince pies warm from the oven, or a Christmas pudding with a lovely white brandy sauce (we don’t eat brandy butter or cream on our pudding) and best of all, turkey with lovely roast potatoes and all the traditional vegetables.

  7. So happy to hear that you are on the mend and that your husband is pitching in to make things easier for you. Lovely of your friend to send you something like that – little surprises are always so nice. Those hyacinths – I can smell them from here. So beautiful!

    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Jeannine, and yes, husband can do all the household jobs that I can do bar the cooking. Yes, he has a limited repertoire in cooking – he can do a roast dinner, and make a good breakfast, but I wouldn’t call him a cook and nor would he. But he wouldn’t starve on his own, put it that way, and he can do all the other household jobs and often does.
      Yes, it’s lovely having a surprise gift. It doesn’t have to be much, perhaps a bar of chocolate, or as in this case, some pretty paper napkins. As for the hyacinths, the scent in the room is wonderful, I will be sorry when they are over.
      My cold has now got to the Runny Nose stage. Drip, drip, drip. I do feel The Cold has a personality and, like a flea, as soon as an unsuspecting host wanders by, it will get its claws into them and I will be Cold-free! (I think the lack of sleep is telling – I’m beginning to fantasize!)

  8. I’m also glad to hear (read) that you are feeling better – albeit with a runny nose. My nose goes very red when wiped repeatedly with tissues. If it were to happen at this time of year I would feel like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer 😉 When we were married we had a very small, private ceremony and a dear friend was our celebrant. As such, we didn’t use the traditional vows but used vows which the celebrant suggested as we had both struggled to ‘write our own’. So whilst ours didn’t have ‘in sickness and in health’ I firmly believe it is ingrained in our marriage regardless. When I’m unwell – be it a migraine, tummy bug or physical injury – I will take as much tea and sympathy as I can get ha ha. My husband is in excellent physical health but, like most of us, has the occasional bout of flu or physical ache. I am happy to play nurse and fuss over him during those times as he is an appreciative person. I often tell him that I like cooking for him as he eats everything placed in front of him. I couldn’t bear cooking for a fussy or unappreciative person – it would do my head in !

    Anyway, enough of that rave 🙂 Those presents from your friends are lovely and both are very thoughtful. I agree that receiving unexpected gifts is a delight. One of my best and dearest friends will often give me (or post) late birthday presents and always apologises profusely for being late. She has done so for many years and each time I tell her that I love late presents as it extends the pleasure of having a birthday. As we now live hundreds of kilometres apart and she has a young family (and I have health issues) we only see each other once or twice a year, so receiving something in the post from each other is all the more special.

    The picture of Santa Claus (or Father Christmas) on the beach is more relatable to me, being a Southern Hemisphere resident 🙂 Our Christmas lunch features fresh prawns, cold ham, salads and the like, with plenty of cherries and mangoes (the latter two enjoyed daily in our household for as long as the shops stock them 🙂 ). Even though Christmas Day is in the middle of our summer, weather on the day is well known for being variable over the decades of living memory – it can range from being so hot you can barely move to being unseasonably cool and drizzly. As such, it’s a brave Australian host or hostess who consistently makes the traditional roast with all of the trimmings on Christmas Day. Australia’s population of about 25 million people consists of so many who were born overseas or are first generation Australian and who are keen to keep their own family traditions. Plus with air travel being so accessible to so many these days, many of us have travelled overseas and personally experienced other cultures. As a result we have wonderful choices of high quality international foods here in our cafes, restaurants, supermarkets, etc. So there really isn’t a ‘typical’ Australian Christmas lunch fare.

    I like the dog on the card you have chosen for your grandson. Perhaps it symbolises Barry, your ‘occasional guest writer’. I wonder if he will be donning a Santa hat on the 25th ??

    • Margaret Powling

      Oh, what lovely long comments, Lara, it has been such fun reading about your home-made marriage vows, or those by the celebrant. When we married way back in 1964 this kind of thing just didn’t happen as it does today. I think it’s lovely that people can arrange their own ceremony and vows according to their own particular wishes.
      I think I could get used to prawns for Christmas lunch if it were nice and warm but I don’t think I’d like the really high temperatures you have in Australia, anything more than say, 24C or 25C and I wilt. But I can imagine that some who have emigrated cling on to the old ways of turkey with all the trimmings but really, that isn’t appropriate on a very hot day, is it!
      Yes, the little dog on the card destined for our grandson does remind me, in a way, of Barry. He was here today with our younger son. Barry is actually getting a bit of middle-aged-spread. He’s seven now, so I think that’s about 49 in human terms.

  9. Oops – I think my comment was almost longer than your post !


    • Margaret Powling

      Never worry about long comments, Lara, I love them! It demonstrates how carefully you have read what I’ve said and how much has chimed with your own thoughts.

  10. So good to have you back blogging Margaret,have missed you! So pleased you are on the mend.We take GOPO rosehip every day and touch wood since we have been taking it haven’t had a cold!Its also very good for your joints. What a pleasure to have long distance friends that care.I have a pen friend in Canada that I have been writing to since I was 11! I have only met up with her once in Canada about twenty years ago.Beautiful hyacinths,did you grow them on yourself? Look after yourself,Margaret.

    • Margaret Powling

      Oh, thank you for saying you had missed me! Indeed, I was a little ahead of myself when I thought I was on the mend, as I’ve had two more awful days, but last night, for the first time in ages, I slept well, so I really do think I’m on the mend this time. I’d not have believed a cold could’ve laid me so low, and now I have to catch up on the Christmas preparations. What a good idea, to take rosehip syrup which, as we know, is full of Vit C. And yes, friends anywhere are wonderful to have, distance really making no difference to real friendship.
      As for the hyacinths, no, I bought the little pot of in compost as they were just poking through the soil. I used to grow my own, but really, it’s less trouble just to pick up a pot or two in the supermarket when they are almost ready to burst into flower. They are almost over now, but we hope to visit the garden centre today for a present for someone, so I hope to find some cyclamen or hyacinths there, but not poinsettia – I don’t want a plant which is trying to upstage the Christmas tree!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *