Ann Rickard
Ann Rickard

Lifelong friends celebrate their 65th birthdays in Provence

I'M coming to you from Provence this week. Sounds a bit exotic, doesn't it?

I'm in a charming stone village called Vers Pont du Gard where the old men play petanque (bowls to us) in a leafy square and the one tiny bar/café gives you a cup of fiercely strong coffee and decent meal for a couple of euros.

Vers Pont du Gard is actually on the border of Gard and Provence but I like to say it's Provence because if I said I was coming to you from Gard, you'd probably raise your eyebrows with a 'where the heck is Gard and why would I want to know?' kind of expression.

Each year I take a small group of people to Provence where we base ourselves in a refurbished 18th century mas and do a lot of eating, drinking and touring.

But that's not what I want to talk about, I want to talk about friendships.

You see four of the women in our group are lifelong friends. They have come to Provence to celebrate their 65th birthdays all falling this year.

These women grew up together from childhood and have stayed friends all those decades despite moving to different parts of the country.

Two of them can say they were friends before they were born. Their fathers were friends.

I've had an attack of envy over the strong bond these women share. To have a long history of friendship with someone is exceptional, but to have it with three others is extraordinary.

They were bridesmaids for each other and there for the births of all their children and then the grandchildren and all else in between. You can only imagine their highs, lows, good and bad times.

They are all fair dinkum born-in-Queensland girls which makes them all the more special in my book seeing as I am a fair dinkum Queensland girl of just 20 years. Gladstone, Bundaberg, Mackay, Cairns are their stomping grounds.

Just being around these marvellous women makes me feel inspired.

Howls of laughter and girlish giggles come from their rooms. (I admit that could have something to do with the fact they all left their husbands behind in Queensland while they took this trip together).

These girls look out for each other, ferry cups of tea to rooms, round up a load of washing for each other, swap make-up and jewellery and buy each other small gifts with a confidence that comes from really knowing your mate's likes and dislikes.

Their affection and loyalty is enviable. And they never judge. They know everything about each other and accept all foibles and quirks without criticism.

Just being near them makes the Provence sun seem brighter.

I'm being sentimental, but being so close to four people with such a strong and unbreakable bond has brought out the softy in me.

Maybe it's the Provence air, probably it's all the pink wine we've consumed, but it has inspired me to get in touch with my own long-term friends, two girls I met in hospital when I had my first child in 1975.

If sharing a hospital ward and all the intimacies associated with it isn't going to bond you, nothing will.

I don't see these friends often but when I do we instantly pick up where we left off. It's as comfortable as putting your feet into a favourite pair of slippers.

We can all have a best friend at some stage in our lives but only a fortunate few have the same one.

Treasure and value your friends is my (unasked for) advice.

P.S. Don't worry I've gone all soppy on you, I'll be back to my humorous self.

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