Annabelle Hickson: A Day in the Country
WHY ANNABELLE HICKSON IS FEELING THE SPECIAL BOND OF FRIENDSHIP.
IMAGINE YOUR LIFE in the form of four gas burners. One represents your family, the second is your friends, the third is your health and the fourth is your work. American writer David Sedaris suggests that to be successful you have to cut off one burner, and to be really successful, you have to cut off two. I’d say family and work flames are where my heat is at, while the others are on simmer. I recently upped the intensity of the work flame to a rolling boil, starting a podcast with a friend, Gillian Bell. It’s called Dispatch To A Friend and it’s based on the letters we write to each other. It’s simply an audio correspondence between two friends who like cooking, eating, reading and gardening. And because it falls into the work category, I have allocated time to it. Now I write weekly, as opposed to every now and then, as I did before. I now make time to speak to Gillian on the phone. We text and email, too. We talk about things like what recipes we might include on the website and who we could ask to contribute to our newsletter. And in between these decisions, we slip in lots of little snippets from our daily lives: doctor’s visits, frustrations with technology, kids saying funny things, husbands who wear things with holes in them. Inadvertently, under the guise of work, I have found myself dedicating serious time to cultivating our friendship. It reminds me of when I was younger, when I’d call up a friend, for maybe the third time that day, and ask, “What are you doing right now?”, because I genuinely wanted to know. I was not at all disappointed if her answer was something mundane like, “Thinking about taking my jumper off.” It was a time when there were no specific reasons for hanging out. Intimacy was based on a foundation of ordinary, seemingly endless shared moments, without any preconceived outcomes. Ironically, it is through having a defined outcome — creating a podcast about ordinary friendship — that I now am remembering what it is like to enjoy this kind of beautiful friendship. Every week I spend a great deal of time with Gillian — more than I have spent with any friend since the days of flatmates. Some of it is funny (Gillian likes to talk about things like fighting pantry moths), some of it is stressful (Gillian thinks she knows our usernames and passwords, but she doesn’t and neither do I), and some of it is boring (working out our usernames and passwords!). All of it is way beyond the gates of catch-up mode — it is incredibly satisfying. “It’s not the person who calls to say, ‘I’m having an affair’,” wrote American author Ann Patchett in an essay on female friendship. “It’s the friend who calls to say, ‘Why do I have four jars of pickles in my refrigerator?’” It is the minutia, the willingness to offer up every detail, that marks the bond between women.” I do enjoy some glorious moments talking about the finer points in life, thanks to my neighbour, Sandra. Our chats are mostly about the price of organic pork versus non-organic pork and how the 5:2 diet went this week. It’s wonderful. And there are so many details with the children. I figured I’d had my fill, but no, I wanted more... I was aching for it. Now, through making a podcast with a friend, I have more and it is so bloody good! The nub of this story is: if you are missing this type of friendship, you must do whatever you can to turn up that friends flame. Turn it up high enough and for long enough so that all those wonderful little moments that define female friendship get a chance to germinate and stick their heads up out of the ground, before they are uprooted by the great big swoosh of everything else. Annabelle Hickson lives on a pecan farm in the Dumaresq Valley, NSW. Follow @annabellehickson on Instagram. Dispatch To A Friend is available on itunes or visit dispatchtoafriend.com
LEFT Annabelle (left) with with her friend Gillian Bell in Edinburgh on a visit to Scotland for their podcast. BELOW Annabelle took this photograph of Gillian with Scottish artist Helena Emmans on the Isle of Skye.