Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Soho Farmhouse, and Friendship

When I'd just received my cancer diagnosis, one of my very best friends, S, came round, scraped me off the floor and took me to the pub.

I sat, mute with fear, clutching a Beck's Blue in one hand, and her hand in the other.

It takes a very brave, and very good friend to be with you in moments like that.

The theologian Henri Nouwen says it much better than I could:

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing.... not healing, not curing.... that is a friend who cares.

After a while she said, "SM, when this is all over, and when all your treatment is finished, we will go to a Spa and have a wonderful couple of days, and this will all seem like a bad dream."

Another great thing about real friends is they don't make empty promises.

Yesterday S, and two of my other oldest (in the sense of longstanding, not long in the tooth) girlfriends took me to the Soho Farmhouse for two days and one night of girl stuff.

The Soho Farmhouse is the newest, and trendiest, of the Soho House outposts, nestled in the lush Oxfordshire countryside.

I wouldn't usually use a twee word like nestle, but if any spa/club/hotel complex can nestle then the Soho Farmhouse can.

It was utterly perfect.

We had a beautiful three bed cabin by a lake (Kate Moss's favourite apparently), decked out in the latest retro chic - all Roberts radios, claw footed baths, vinyl record players and wood burning stoves. (My 1970s childhood is now officially hip).

There was the best stocked drinks fridge and liquor cabinet I've ever come across (I'd have been in heaven in the old days) and a larger array of luxury bath products than in my local Boots.

Outside the cabin were four identical bicycles for us to get around on, plus umbrellas and welly boots should it dare to rain.

We even had our own 'Farm Hand' on call in case the perfection wasn't perfect enough, and we needed to call for more perfection immediately.

I suspect there were people running around picking up any globules of stray mud with tweezers.

Hipster couples with dewy complexions and washboard abdominals wandered around sipping on glasses of champagne and green juices, like paid extras in an episode of the Truman Show, with the bird song and fluffy bunnies appearing on a loop.

I have never been so clean. I made the most of every water based opportunity: I swam, hot tubbed, steamed, showered and bathed.

I had six months of tension extracted from my shoulders with a combination of gentle coaxing and brute force by a man called Greg with magic fingers.

(I revelled in the thought that those fingers had quite possibly kneaded David Beckham's buttocks).

I frolicked in a little bubble of fabulous female friendship.

I'm afraid I'm not one of those people who can say that having cancer was actually a good thing, because it made me a better person. Cancer sucks. It's never a good thing. I'd rather be a worse person without cancer than a better person with it, quite frankly.

However, it has taught me the value of great friendship.

I'm astounded that my friends have stuck by me. I am extraordinarily lucky.

I've been a rotten friend for a very long time, but I'm going to spend the rest of my life trying to rectify that.

Love to you all,



  1. So happy you had a great girls getaway! My girlfriends were also so wonderful to me during my cancer treatments. So, each year in October (breast cancer awareness month and the month of my diagnosis..horrible month to get the diagnosis in!) I hosted a dinner party and gave each of my "girls" a gift bag as a thank you for all of their support. I would put pink Riedel champagne glasses in it and pink m& m's, etc. Some years I did a gift card, a beautiful scarf, I did this for 5 years. It was a lot of fun and it was a way I could thank my friends! And, they really loved it! xo

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    2. Adding...I NEED GREG AND HIS MAGIC FINGERS!!! hahaha

    3. That's such a nice idea Soberat53! I may have to steal it! Xxx

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  3. I love how you acknowledge that you haven't been the best friend and want to change that. It sounds like you are well on your way. Alcohol makes us more self centered, doesn't it? No more of that! Glad you got special treats!

  4. You have more friends than you will ever know. Your blog makes me feel like I'm your friend. (Kind of like everyone thinking that Oprah is their buddy.) Just being honest about the struggle is a gift to everyone who reads about it. Thank you!!

  5. Hi, another poignant post and evocative post...the longer I am sober..day 47 for me, so still a novice, the more I can see there is no going back, and can truly believe that the future sober is not only possible, but massively preferable.....thank you SM and all your supporters,,have spent a lot of time over the past few weeks re.reading posts and comments...invaluable...:)

  6. Having just commented on your following entry, isn't the thing about good friends that they accept you warts and all? A very good friend who is very devout Christian arranged for a taxi home at a group dinner where I was completely out of order, and totally without judgement (I'm an atheist) - I just felt blessed to be taken care of like that.