Monday, July 22, 2024
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The joy of making unexpected new friends


THERE’S an old saying: It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.  The truth of this has come home forcefully to me recently as, although the past few years have been horrendous thanks to the covid and allied hysteria, there have been some surprising and unlooked-for benefits.

Chief of these has been the forming of new friendships among the awakened and the enlightened.

Just before Christmas, I found a bottle of champagne outside my door with a note saying: ‘Your articles on TCW have kept me sane over the last four years.’ I had no idea who this mysterious benefactor was, as the note was signed with a name I did not recognise.  There was, however, on the note an Oxford address.

I did wonder how this person discovered my address and got into the building to deliver the bubbly, but I sent him a note of thanks and included my email and phone number in case he wanted to make further contact. The upshot was that we met for coffee and instantly became firm friends. Although we met as complete strangers, we chatted for hours and it was as if we had known each other all our lives. We have arranged to meet again for further discussions as it is so wonderful to find an ally, especially in Oxford where the majority still seem to adhere to the mainstream narrative.

My new Oxford friend – a gay man in his mid-50s – bemoaned the fact that he can no longer have any proper exchanges with his former friends, including other gay men. He thought the reason was that many gays have felt ostracised for so many years that all they want to do now is to belong, rather than risking being outsiders once more by questioning the official line.

It is even true that in many cases, thanks to the way society has divided over covid, one cannot now have a proper relationship with members of one’s own family.  My new friend’s sister has had all the jabs and as a probable result now suffers from an auto-immune disease. But she continues to believe the vaccine is safe and effective, and reckons her once sensible brother has gone mad.  

Another friend has joined a local group who are all ‘one of us’. She says it is such a comfort to go along to meetings as her own family believe she is crazy for being vehemently anti-vax (anti-covid vax at least) and a climate change denier. Her family, she says, simply don’t want to listen to what she has to say, never mind that she has done all the research and they haven’t. They ‘follow the science’ whereas she questions it. She asks: Why am I so different from every other member of my family? It is something I have often asked myself while shaking my head at the rubbish so many supposedly intelligent people are prepared to take on board.

For my friend, her neighbourhood group has become her new family.

Last year I was doing a photoshoot for a newspaper and the photographer warned me about the make-up artist who had come to make me camera-ready (or as near to it as I am likely to get). ‘She’s completely off the wall,’ the photographer said.  ‘She’s anti-vax, anti-lockdown and anti all the covid policies.’  Great, I thought, she’s one of us – and once again, we had a long discussion as we compared notes and discovered we thought alike on all these issues.

We covid sceptics have formed a merry band and although we discuss very serious matters, we can laugh and joke together as well, especially at all the nonsense that has been pushed at us over the last four years.

But what I’ve realised, sometimes painfully, is that when it comes to ‘them’ and ‘us’ there is no way of telling in advance into which camp one’s friends, family and colleagues might fall. The only explanation I can offer is that some of us hear the click, and others just don’t. It’s a bit like having perfect pitch. Some people can sing beautifully in tune and accurately reproduce notes they hear on a piano, for instance. Others can’t, and their ears will never be attuned. Or maybe it’s a bit like having a gift for languages. I have friends who pick up new languages easily and others who can’t speak in a foreign tongue even when they have lived in the host country for years.

So I think that the ability to see through to the truth has to be a gift because one thing I have learned through all this is that you cannot persuade those who firmly adhere to ‘the science’ and the mainstream narrative to change their views. There is no point in telling them to stop testing themselves with the PCR kit as they simply take no notice. We can only hope that as time goes by, ever more people will hear the click and adjust their former beliefs accordingly. I like to think we are winning, although it is proving a long hard battle.

Meanwhile, I am very grateful for the new friends and allies I have made through all this as they give me great solace and help me to understand that I am not as much out on a limb as I once imagined.

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Liz Hodgkinson
Liz Hodgkinson
Liz Hodgkinson is an author and journalist.

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