Friends? There is an old saying along the lines of, “who needs family when you have good friends?”

“I’ll Be There For You (Theme From Friends)” Lyrics courtesy of Azlyrics.com
So no one told you life was gonna be this way
Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s D.O.A.
It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear
When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year, but

I’ll be there for you
(When the rain starts to pour)
I’ll be there for you
(Like I’ve been there before)
I’ll be there for you
(‘Cause you’re there for me too)

That old saying is intended to be a rhetorical question and acknowledges that many experience moments when friends can be more supportive than family.  “You can pick your friends but not your family” is another variation on the theme.

This is not a tirade against any members of my family. Things are fine there. It is a reflection on my travels through life and the impact certain people have had on it.

Like it or not, I suggest that we can categorize friends. Childhood friends, work friends, school friends, university friends and so on. Some of those overlap. Lucky is the person that has a school friend and are still friends as they both get older. Then we have married couples and the glue of a long happy union is their friendship.  Sometimes, people who were married once upon a time remain friends.

Then we come to false friends. You know them. “Fair weather friends” is a polite way of describing them.  I know I had my share of them.

Most of them were in a work or university setting. All good mates until it came to the crunch. When I was a sales manager one climbed all over me and totally s*** on me in order to gain a promotion. Not satisfied with that, he then went to the owner of the business feeding falsehoods about me into his shell like (Brit for ear). He got his way and couldn’t look me in the eyes again.

Then there were the so-called friends from university. Some of them later qualified as solicitors. There are two branches of the legal profession in England, solicitors and barristers. I was a barrister and as a self-employed barrister in independent practice. I relied upon solicitors to “brief me” – send me work.  Barristers largely conduct the trial as an advocate before judge and jury. A solicitor (in theory) prepares the case. Americans would call the barrister a trial attorney.

One of my university friends became a rising star as a successful solicitor in North London. Eventually,  she set up her own firm with other partners. She did brief me once. A trial of a relatively minor matter in the Crown Court. Against all the odds and the evidence, I secured an acquittal for our client. Did I see more work from her? No. Why not? I have no idea. If I had been a useless advocate, then friends or not, I could have understood her failure to brief me regularly. But I was far from useless. A colleague of mine at the Bar with 30 years experience left me alone to defend in a serious trial when all the other accused were represented by two counsel including Queen’s Counsel. A vote of confidence? What do you think? On another occasion, I was led by Queen’s Counsel in a murder trial. Our client wished to sack the QC and for me to carry on alone. No, I don’t believe I was useless. My friend at university wasn’t a friend at all.

I don’t ever recall being shafted by friends during my police service so maybe the faux friendship is a feature of sales and the legal profession?

One of the many things I love about retirement and writing is that I don’t have to rely on friends any longer. That made me stop in my tracks. It needs explaining. I have a friend and she is Zabrina, my partner and soul mate. We think alike.

But, I don’t have to rely on friends for a source of work or services rendered. I make my own way in life and believe that has always been the case. However, friends in the right places can make life easier than it otherwise would be. Don’t you think?

There is a place for true friends in my life, such as the man who still keeps in touch since we were rookie cops back in the day. I count some of my family as friends. That’s a bonus. My true friends can be counted on the fingers of both hands and some of them are dead.  I don’t make friends easily but value true friendship.

I was hurt recently when someone I thought was a friend started to lecture me like I was back in school over a loose business arrangement we had in place. Do business and friendship mix? I don’t know. Tell me what you think.

How about you? Have you been let down badly by people you thought were friends?

Real friendship is a two-way street.