What do these three things have in common? A jar of honey, our greyhound and friendship.
Now there’s a question!
I can imagine you wondering, Where on earth is she going with this?
There’s a progression of events that links the three disparate elements for me. Firstly, the honey. Since the beginning of lockdown, like many other people, I have been watching and listening to our local church services on the internet. After the services, we meet on Zoom for ‘virtual coffee’ and chat. As there are usually quite a number of us, we are placed into breakout rooms. In one of these, I found myself chatting with a lady whom I have met at church, but whom I don’t know well. Pre-Covid, on Sunday mornings, we exchanged pleasantries, but that is about as far as we had progressed in terms of acquaintance. During the course of the Zoom chats, it transpired that she has been keeping bees for many years and as a member of the local beekeepers’ society, she sells the resultant honey. I was captivated by the opportunity of acquiring some truly local honey and after an email exchange we arranged for me to visit her at home. We spent a very pleasant, appropriately socially distant, afternoon together and I came home delighted with a couple of jars of clear, amber honey.
The honey tastes delicious and its rich flavour puts me in mind of blossom. Truly, it is a feast for the senses.
Concurrently, I discovered a well moderated Facebook group that explores greyhound ancestry. All greyhounds born in kennels are branded with ear tattoos and registered in stud books, so tracing their antecedents is quite easy. Through the page, I have discovered much that we didn’t already know about our Shadow. We knew by the fact that he is tattooed in both ears, that he was born in Ireland. (English hounds have one ear tattoo). Though he never trialled or raced himself, Shadow has an impressive pedigree. There is even a painting of the very first sire of his paternal line, called Pilot, dating from 1846. (Easier to trace his family than my own!)
Through the page, I have seen photos of many of Shadow’s half siblings as his antecedents were significantly prolific Irish stud dogs, with an impressive racing history. Whatever your feelings about greyhound racing it is good to see that a large number of these lovely dogs enjoy a happy and pampered retirement, when they come to the end of their racing career.
Listeners to BBC Radio 2 may have heard Sheridan Voysey’s recent input about friendship. He asks various questions, one of which is, “Why is friendship so important?” and answers, “When the business fails, family bonds break, or the marriage ends, it’s our friends who get us through. Friendship is an important factor for our health, well-being and happiness. Being with a friend releases oxytocin and endorphins and reduces cortisol in stressful situations”.
Thank you for those words, Sheridan, you have a knack of getting to the nub of a concept, concisely and wisely.
I would extend what Sheridan says to incorporate the importance of friendship in grieving, too, because there are times when you are in sorrow, during which your family members might be emotionally too close to be supportive, and you have a real need to offload to friends, who can empathise with and encourage you, in different ways.
Friends are there for you, no matter what. They explore the full gamut of emotions with you from a silly fit of the giggles to the most profound, heartfelt sobbing and everything in between.
Friends leave ego outside the door, do not envy and trust implicitly. They are truly invaluable. My dad always told me that you can count your true, life-time friends on the fingers of one hand and if you are blessed with these, you are indeed rich.
So, you may be asking, what is the link between the honey, the greyhound and friendship?
All three things are complex but pure, undiluted by any form of mongrelisation (yes, that is a word, I checked).
Honey is the pure product resulting from the natural, complex process of the bees collecting the nectar and pollen from the local fields, gardens and hedgerows.
The greyhound is a pure product resulting from monitored breeding.
Friendship’s purity lies in its emotional security that provides a lifelong, mutual and implicit trust.
Friendship takes time to develop and cannot be forced. Just as the bees cannot be urged to collect the pollen any faster, nor the greyhound to walk in the rain or indeed, get off the sofa!
If you are looking for a creative exercise yourself, try linking three seemingly unrelated items; you may be surprised by the results.