We had a good conversation in the Olde Bell after racing yesterday about the value of friendship.
One of our party was quite methodical in how she cultivated friendship. Acquaintances were granted access to her via linked in from which they could be admitted to higher sanctums (such as Facebook) as she chose.
I thought this frank approach very sensible. But it assumes that people want you as their friend rather than the other way round. Others at the table clearly thought this arrogant.
Today is our final day on the river, over the five days of Henley nearly 60 people will have joined me in a spirit of friendship and with no objective other than to enjoy the day. As part of this relationships may have been developed, people may even become friends.
It’s been interesting watching how people from different social backgrounds, different fields of work and most of all- of different ages interact with each other in the tight confines of a 38 foot cabin cruiser.
When people take the plunge and arrive there is a nervousness and by the time they leave there is an easiness, that is a mark of a successful day. It’s been a successful week – we have had no friendships broken and few people have not got on with each other.
Opening up the boat to people outside our Pension PlayPen group has led to all kinds of new interactions. I don’t want to sound the social scientist, but this sharing seems to create a kind of pleasantness in the air which means people are more relaxed and open. No one has anything to prove.
It has also caused some jealousy, as I wrote about yesterday. If you are charging upwards of £3,000 a day for something that someone is giving away, you may feel that person is devaluing your asset.
The least relaxed parts of the week have been when our boat has been criticised for being too loud and not respectful to the established order of the river. Since there is no established order in the chaos of Henley’s riverside, I suspect this means the commercial order which our five trips is imposing on.
But this brings me to my title. We make and keep friends because we feel able to share. Those who haven’t been on the boat (and there are literally thousands who haven’t taken up the free offer) are not part of this particular set of friendships. Among them are my colleagues from work, my family, even my partner.
For many people the making and keeping of friendships is not something that involves outreach but happens very gently and at a pace that takes no risks. Respecting this difference in approach takes some doing (especially if you are as immersed in the experience of five days at Henley as I am).
I realise, each year I do this, that tolerance is everything and that the wisest among us are those who judge least and listen most. For all the fun and games, those who get most out of our excursions are those who give the most.
Many people have given enormously in terms of food and drink. One group even bought me a huge Pimms dispenser. But the people I would like to thank in this blog are all those who shared themselves as friends and allowed me and the other guests that insight into their “Facebook world”, if only for a few hours.
Tomorrow will be back to work and to a different set of interactions. I hope that many of the people I’ve met for the first time this week, will be around in the months and years to come as even more than Facebook friends.