‘On paper, we shouldn’t be friends’
They are like chalk and cheese, but Kate Rowe and Catherine Blyth can still make one another laugh like nobody else
Catherine and I have been friends since we were 12. While I was shy, she was forthright. But we had a shared sense of curiosity about the world, and spent many nights talking into the early hours.
In some ways, our lives have run on parallel tracks. By chance, we married on exactly the same day and we both have two children. But when it comes to our outlook, and the way we see the world, we have always been poles apart.
As a young woman I was conservative, and felt wary of political discussions. Afraid of being caught out and ridiculed for my limited political knowledge, I stayed quiet. Catherine, on the other hand, grew ever more politically-minded. A firm Labour supporter, she went to Cambridge University, where her opinions were challenged and strengthened. At the 1997 election, when we both had the chance to vote for the first time, she was horrified that I’d voted Tory.
After university, I moved back to Northampton and went on to work for my family’s horticultural business, while Catherine moved to London, became a writer, and enjoyed a fast-paced life far different from the one I craved. I don’t think she has ever understood why I chose to go back to the place where we grew up. But she accepts that I have a very different philosophy on life; I am much more spiritual, and after discovering Buddhism in recent years, I have found peace in meditation.
But when we get together, we become those two chattering little girls again, just like when we were at sleepovers. Our years of friendship have formed a deep bond between us, one that allows us to be completely honest with one another.
When we do disagree, we both know it’s only a matter of opinion. We are able to look beyond it, find reasons to laugh and diffuse the tension with mutual respect. Having a different world view provides the opportunity to think over your own core values and become more broad-minded as a result. Trust, support and love are the most important qualities in a friendship – and Catherine offers those in abundance.
On paper, Kate and I shouldn’t be friends. And yet, as the years have gone on, I’ve realised that challenging each other is fundamental to our dynamic, and our differences are what makes us tick.
Growing up, I was a bit of a rebel, while Kate has always been a dreamer. When she voted for John Major in 1997, I struggled to accept her decision. I saw him as a dull bank manager – a grey figure in contrast to Kate’s brightness. I felt cheated, as though she had lost her dreaminess.
I think the secret to our sustained bond is that we listen to each other, and what bridges the chasm between us is our sense of humour. One of my favourite memories of Kate is the two of us climbing out of a pub window. We’d paid for the drinks and there was no good reason to do so, but at the time, it seemed hilarious – the kind of laughter that hurts your stomach.
I love that she’s a dreamer, and she enjoys my more cynical take on the world. Differences, in whatever form, should always be something to celebrate.
‘When we disagree, we are able to look beyond it’ kate
Colour clash: Kate, left, and Catherine have opposing views on many things