I am a smart woman. I’ve studied and worked hard, I’ve achieved a lot that I’m proud of but I am rubbish, RUBBISH at judging characters. Or even seeing them sometimes. My small roll call of friends loved and lost is a testament to that, and it’s the one part of my own character that I could do without. I fall too easily, I see the good in people even when it’s not really there; case in point a best friend of ten years who for the most part had no other friends – your first clue Sophie! I supported her when she outgrew and then bounced between jobs, leaving a suspicious trail of destruction in her wake (open your eyes Sophie!) And then, duh! I accepted a job working for her, and took the brunt when she couldn’t hide in her lies anymore. It was the kind of career carnage that I won’t linger on, but the point is I’d been platonically cat-fished for ten years, had been friends with someone I didn’t know and that was a tough lesson for me. So am I wiser, stronger, less blindly trusting now? Am I fuck. I am the human embodiment of Doug the Dog from the film Up! “I do not know you but I love you”.
A portrait of sophie taken for her book jacket, by her best pal pete
Friends who are genuine can only benefit from my stupid sentimentality – and I have a lot of great ones – and I in turn am learning what authenticity looks like. Lockdown has been good for that.
But there is one. The stalwart, reliable Lassie to my Doug who might be surprised at this here ode, and that is precisely why he’s getting it. We met properly at a music festival, a group trip, a bunch of almost strangers thrown together in one place for ‘work’, and whilst I can’t remember too much of the detail (music festivals will do that to you) we’ve been a fixture in each other’s lives ever since. Not the main event you understand, I don’t call him if I have a horrible day, he doesn’t lean on me for advice, but he’s so present, so consistent and consistently good that I don’t ever need to question it. That is what means the most to me, especially in light of my character-judging deficit.
He comes as a package which is part of his charm. Carla, his wife, is not someone he can take credit for (I can hear her shouting ‘hell no’ in the background) but I wouldn’t know her if it weren’t for knowing him. We wouldn’t have formed my favourite memories of Paris, the four of us strolling through the Marais, laughing at the stereotypical rudeness of the Parisian waiters, howling in the hotel lobby when everyone else had gone to bed. When I long for life post lockdown I imagine doing that again, but maybe you can’t recreate a masterpiece. Especially since we’ve each had a baby since, my first, his fourth.
Pete and Carla are unofficially appointed fairy godparents to our daughter, by virtue of supporting us with Greek cooking and total understanding from the moment we started trying five years ago. They always gave us exactly what we needed without ever saying it out loud.
If I think about the trusted, beautiful people I am lucky to have in my life, it is Pete who represents a solidity and a mutual appreciation that never fails to make me smile. We quietly get each other, and as such I value his friendship more than I realised till I sat and thought about the ones that have crumbled to nothing.
I’m honoured that Pete photographed the cover of my book The Motherproject, my story about the struggles he witnessed from the sidelines. One cold afternoon in his garden while our tea got cold. It’s beautiful, as I knew it would be. I couldn’t think of a lovelier legacy.
Sophie's first book The Mother Project is out on 27 May, and available to pre-order here