People have their days of birth and death, marriages have their anniversaries, romance has St Valentine’s Day, mothers and fathers have Mothers’ and Fathers’ days. But friendship, though compellingly precious to everyone, is homeless. My reasons for choosing Guy Fawkes’ Day (marking his betrayal and arrest on 5 November 1605 for the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament) have everything to do with me and nothing to do with him! Your own associations with friendship will of course be quite different.
Friendship is given in many kinds, in contrasting depths, textures and sizes. Sometimes its cloth is woven over decades of shared experience. The grace below grew out of that kind of friendship. It was written for the celebration at Hever Castle in 2002 of the fiftieth birthday of my friend and business partner, Stephen Bampfylde. But sometimes friendship is given briefly, but nevertheless profoundly, by people whose names and lives we do not know.
I grew up in Hong Kong and my family remained there when I came to boarding school in London from my fifteenth birthday. That was a somewhat strange experience, at times lonely. Among the hazards to be survived were half-terms (an odd concept to me) when, if not looked after by relations, I stayed with families who were paid to look after me.
Though I have never remembered the name of my friend, I will never forget one half-term Saturday night, which happened to be when the bonfires of Guy Fawkes were burning. The son of my hosts took me to see the bonfire and fireworks. Afterwards he showed me how buying a pint in a pub works. The definition of banality? Quite the opposite for me.
A GRACE FOR LOVE, FRIENDSHIP AND LIFE
We spend much of our time and energy as if we were creatures of ambition, achievement and calculation.
But you spread before us this banquet of life – a banquet of love beyond reason, friendship beyond price and life itself beyond our control.
However many times it may be said of each one of us that we were truly grateful, may this occasion be one of them.