Thank you, my friends.

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Last Friday I found myself on a rooftop bar in London. The night was warm. People were sitting, talking, laughing, kissing, singing, reminiscing, meeting. Some of the people I knew. Others I’d met just that night. Two of them were a couple of the most important people currently in my life. Only one of them I’d known for more than a year.

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And, looking around, I had the realisation that when it comes to friends, I’ve been, and continue to be, incredibly fucking blessed.

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As I’ve moved through my life I’ve met and interacted with so many different people. Some I’ve simply known, others I’ve made more of a connection with. And then I’ve moved on. Life moves forward. Some of those friendships have faded away while others have stayed with me.

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And the most important – the most amazing – part of all of this is that each and every one of these people has played a part in making me who I am. Every relationship. Each interaction, no matter how small, has shaped me. I’ve experienced love, loss, laughter, fear, anger, joy, discovery, every part of the human experience. And I’ve shared all of it with you.

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And as I looked around the rooftop on Friday I realised that I was surrounded by people I consider some of my closest friends, people I know well enough to call friends, and people I might never see again but who have the potential to become one of my best friends I have in the world.

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Just think about it. Every person in your life that you can’t imagine possibly being without was once a complete stranger you just happened to meet.

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How many of the people I met of Friday might I end up knowing for the rest of my life?

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There are so many things in life that are so close to us, so familiar and everyday, that we forgot how important that are. How much magic they hold. Our friends  are one of these things.

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So what I want to say here is thank you to you all. Thank you to every one of you I’ve ever called a friend. To anyone with whom I’ve ever shared an experience or an emotion. Whether we haven’t spoken in years, or if you’ve been by my side for for over a decade. Whether we were part of each other’s lives for years or just a single weekend. All of you are more important than I can say.

So important, in fact, that I rarely even register how important you actually are.

Recommendation: “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern

It’s World Book Day. I hope you’re all revelling in your favourite reads, or throwing yourself into a book you’ve never read before. Because if there’s one thing that’s just as good as – or perhaps even better than – the joy of rereading an old favourite its that feeling of realisation that the book you’ve just begun is going to be wonderful. That deep happiness of knowing that you will never again get to experience this novel for the first time.

This is what I just encountered with Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

I wish I could remember exactly who recommend this to me last year, because then I could thank them to directing me to the experience of this read. Sometimes, when you’re trying to describe something, you don’t need fancy words. On these occasions the simple ones will fit better, as they can portray the essentialness of something.

The words that best describe The Night Circus? “Soft” and “Beautiful”.

Le Cirque de Reves moves around the world. It appears in one place as if by magic, opens only between sunset and sunrise, and then after a few days disappears just as suddenly. Decorated solely in black and white, populated by performers and attractions so otherworldly and imaginative that you can barely believe they are real, the experience of walking through the gate is akin to stepping into a dream. And behind all this are Celia and Marcus, two young magicians engaged in a contest to which neither understand the rules or know how or when a winner will be chosen.

Morgenstern’s writing is comforting without feeling worn, and elegant without being pretentious. It has the feel of something new that’s been expertly hand crafted to feel old and comfortable. She doesn’t rush a single word. If you require fast paced action, this isn’t the book for you. The story takes its time, letting the characters and the world grow at their own pace. Without wanting to sound to pretentious, the experience of reading the book has the feeling of exploring the circus itself; leisurely admiring every aspect as it comes until you complete your circuit and finally understand the full layout.

While I was reading The Night Circus I never felt rushed. I never looked at the number of pages remaining to guess how much I had left. I felt completely immersed, to the point where I actually felt sad when I reached the end. If you allow it, Morgenstern’s writing will sweep you up and carry you off out of this world and into its own.

Recommendation: “Lost Empires” by JB Priestley

This is the second of J.B. Priestley’s novels I’ve read, and I am developing a definite love for his work.

Like The Good Companions – the previous Priestley novel I read – Lost Empires is a slice of life story set during the golden age of vaudeville and variety.The story is framed as the recollections of Richard Herncastle, an elderly painter, of the year he spent as the assistance and stage manager for his uncle, a successful magician on the variety circuit, before the outbreak of the Great War. The book read differently to more modern novels, and the plot isn’t set around some Big Adventure. The times and characters speak for themselves, portraying the tail ends of two worlds: The Golden Age of music hall variety, and English society before the destructive chaos of the War.

This isn’t to say that nothing happens, but rather that the event happen as they do in real life; as and when they come. Character come and go, in the way we expect in real life. Character grow no in sudden bursts of realisation and action, but over time and circumstances dictate.

But as much as you enjoy this beautiful written, soft depiction of a different time, when you reach the end you suddenly find yourself facing the sudden drop of “An Example Of It’s Time”. Throughout the book there are plenty of examples of what I came to think of as “patronising feminism”. Priestly clearly meant well, and was quite progressive for his time (Lost Empires was published in 1965). But that doesn’t free him from the prejudices of his time. You can’t say all his descriptions of women were complimentary, even if he meant them to be. We know better now. But while you can let these by, the ending is harder to swallow. The final climactic story consists of Richard and his uncle working to help a murderer flee the country because the girl he killed had been flirting with him for so long without any intention of sleeping with him that they don’t consider it fair for him to be arrested and executed for it, considering it the victims own fault that he snapped and killed her.

*Awkward cough*

So yeah, there’s that to be aware of. But as long as you can put that aside – like I said, this needs to be put aside as “And Example Of Its Time” and that the author had no malicious feelings other than the standard unconscious prejudices of the society he lived in – then this is a wonderful novel to sit back and enjoy.