“Friendships can deteriorate very quickly if you don’t invest in them – it probably only takes about three months,” says evolutionary psychologist Prof Robin Dunbar.

Another UCL study launched in the week before lockdown with over 70,000 participants found that a quarter of people reported their relationships with colleagues and co-workers had worsened over lockdown, and a fifth said their friendships outside of their household have also got worse.

Admittedly the coronavirus pandemic has definitely put a strain on friendships, but it depends on where your friends are and indeed how often you usually see them. I have 5 very close girlfriends who live in different countries. Sometimes we don’t see each other for a year or two and yet when we do meet, we pick up as if it was yesterday.  But then there are a few close friends in my home town  who I don’t see as often as before COVID mainly because I am more careful than they are – and yes I do miss them and part of me feels like they are getting on with their life and I am being left behind.

Look friendships are always filled with ups and downs and maybe COVID has intensified this. I WhatsApp, I zoom, I face time but sometimes one just needs to be able to read a friend’s body language.

That said my friendships are not going to deteriorate because of COVID because I won’t let this pandemic do this to me. It has wrought enough damage. I just need to work extra hard to try and maintain my friendships that is if they are worth maintaining. One girl friend said when we were discussing this issue that COVID had made her rethink some of her friendships and she had dropped a few of them.  Luckily not me! “I guess it made me focus on what is important about friends,” she said.   Another commented that now with social media there are   so many people with whom we connect it takes something like COVID for us to realise who are true friends. 

Hanging out with friends though during COVID can be difficult.  Most of my friends and those of Toby and Linda know our rules. But even the most well-intentioned — who know that wearing masks, staying outside, and keeping a distance are the best way to stop the spread — slip up especially after a few drinks. And sometimes I feel a bit like a tyrant reminding them – hopefully they are not too irritated by me.

I do realise that with winter approaching we might have to change the friendship rules a bit. Yesterday amidst a full blown storm I had dinner with one of my best friends. Obviously dinner in the garden was not going to happen so I sat in the corner of her kitchen with the French windows wide open. And I suspect there will be more corner-of-the-kitchen-sitting encounters.

I enjoy her company immensely, but I left with a severe case of sibling envy.  She was just about to start her evening WhatsApp with her father and her two siblings.  I have no parent and no siblings. Why didn’t my mother have more than just Brian and me? Very selfish of her.

I think that’s why I wanted 5 children so they would all have each other. That and my obsession with Little House on the Prairie and Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven — my junior school teacher advised my mother that Enid Blyton should be banned as I was beginning to sound like one of the Secret Seven. I once organised an adventure with some of my classmates after school omitting to inform our parents which culminated in the Leicester police force being called out on mass.

The Secret Seven Adventure by Enid Blyton vintage 1963 | Etsy

Actually I think stopping at 3 had more to do with only having one ovary and one fallopian tube. I thought it better to stop while the going was still good and of course finances, and my mother. Most mothers are overjoyed at the thought of another grandchild – my mother’s reaction was:

“What – another child – why on earth have you gone and done that.”

 Probably just as well there weren’t more of them – the boys have fought throughout their lives and still squabble furiously. As toddlers they would fight over whose turn it was to have the cereal box next to their plate and progressed to full grown fisticuffs. Door handles and broken windows didn’t get replaced until they left home. I am told that girls use their tongues but boys are much more physical.

All very well worrying about friendships and COVID but there are much more serious things afoot. The Saturday Times has just arrived and I am debating whether I have the courage to read an article entitled “Think Pandemics are bad? Prepare for the main event.” A massive solar storm would have the power to paralyze modern life by wiping out satellite and electrical grids. I think I just might give it a miss.

Enjoy your weekend people – not sure how it got to be the weekend again so quickly – it was only Monday 2 minutes ago. It’s a peculiar paradox of pandemic times: we do very little, yet the hours fly by.  I am working at a way to slow it all down – will let you know if I succeed

“Let’s be careful out there”