Greta Horwood talks about the importance of female friendship.

I have never had a mother I could talk to, my mother was only interested in herself, making a better life for herself, meeting and ‘using people’ to get what she wanted. We did not share the same outlook on life. She was not someone to listen to anyone’s point of view, she could not be asked for help, she was Queen bee.

Some sisters can be friends as well, but I have no sister to experience this with.

Life has taught me female friends are to be valued. Over the years I have had a few, but only two very close ones.

A female friend is someone you can share everything with, the world can be put to rights within a few letters or emails, this is a friend to keep and I valued their opinion on EVERYTHING.

Over the years I have found some good friends, but my closest left me. Not in the sense as it reads. When we moved in this house 52 years ago, she and her husband lived opposite. Both of us in new houses, me newly married, she already had two sons, both under 10. It did not take me long to realise, her marriage was not a happy one and during daily chats I was to learn more. They went through a really bad patch not long after we moved in, but a few months later they were emigrating to Australia. Hazel confided in me, she did not want to go, but gave in for her son’s benefit, a new life would be better for them. I was worried for her, as friends do.

Our friendship continued across the miles, first by pen and paper, some letters 23 pages long! Later by cassette tapes, it was just like chatting over a cup of tea. We remained good friends for 35 years until she died. My first real friend, there has never been another like Hazel, we shared so much. I compare other friends to Hazel, many do not compare well and these are ones that don’t last for many reasons, most are not true friends, not to be trusted with a confidence. Hazel I could trust.

As the years have rolled by I have realised that many friends have been like my mother, takers, they give nothing in return. These are friends not to value and often contact fizzles to nothing, a friend lost and I am grateful for it it. It is these false friends that has made me value my two good ones.

With Hazel we were equal, I helped and was happy to do so, she would do the same for me. My help was not taken for granted, that is how good friends are. Give and take.

Having just spoken to my daughter on the phone, this morning and getting nowhere, I will email my friend, I should have done that in the first place! That is how important having a female friend is! She is always there for me and I her. I know she will help and do so willingly. Daughters have an agenda, friends do not.

My closest and best friend now, Glynis, was a friendship started through a joint interest. She wrote to me thinking we shared family history. We did not, but my research had found her branch, so I was able to help. We corresponded by pen and paper for many years, we had so much in common, not just family history, we felt the same on so many aspects of life. Children and husbands, work and relationships. That was valued. We both shared the same sense of humour and this resulted in a paper letter, from Glynis, with added pictures from magazines , illustrating what she was saying. A very long letter! I still have that! This started a flow of ‘funny’ birthday cards and letters, each trying to outdo the other. We made each other laugh! Friends do that.

That is what good friends are all about, being there for each other, brightening up each other’s existence.

It is this friend who helped me get over the failed relationship which made me write my book, Sun Sea and Sex. This friend gave me a shoulder to cry on, albeit long distance, her words helped. My daughter made me feel guilty about the relationship, my friend understood it happened, it was not planned, it just happened. She understood it was what I needed at the time. A friend knows she can talk honestly and knows the friend will take it in friendship, no redress. Good friends are there for one another and I know I value you Glynis, I appreciate all you have done for me, you have spoken the truth, did not condemn, you are a true friend and that is what is so good in my life.

I have had only two good friends in my life, much appreciated, thank you both for being there for me.

Escaping to live on a Caribbean island, Zeeta and her two best friends reflect on their turbulent lives, loves and the decisions that shaped them.

Growing up, Zeeta always strove to be the perfect daughter and be everything her parents hoped. Unfortunately, she soon realised that she’d never be good enough, it’s her brother who holds their love. Thankfully, she can always turn to her lifelong friend Sheila — a boy-mad teenager whose love of the opposite sex will follow her into adulthood with a rollercoaster of consequences.

Determined to make something of her life Zeeta continues to be a model student and earns a place at cookery college where good qualifications should pave the way to a career and security. But getting the job she wanted proved impossible. However, a chance meeting on her train to work with Peggy — a vibrant and successful career woman — who offers Zeeta an exciting new job in London changes the course of her life forever.

Retired and living in Great Horwood, Buckinghamshire, Greta Horwood is the pen name for Patricia Rudkin. An active member of her community, Patricia has worked as the secretary for the Village Hall management committee, arranged village fetes and fundraising events and worked as the caretaker for Great Horwood Village School. Along with her late husband, she also used to run a youth club called Great Horwood Sports and Activities Club. And up until last January she was a weekly contributor to the Buckingham and Winslow Advertiser and Great Horwood Village News.

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