Once, at dinner in a favourite local restaurant, we were accused of being spies. To put this into some form of context the owners, who have become firm friends over time, introduced us, with much enthusiasm and, as it transpired, a great deal of misjudgement, to the couple seated at the next table. Upon discovering that we lived in Hungary they became convinced, and from then on it must be said we did little to persuade them otherwise, that we must be some kind of secret agents. At the point that we were informed that the country [the United Kingdom] did not need people like us, the conversation somewhat petered out. It came as no surprise to discover that we were not on their Christmas card list!
|Dora Carrington's portrait of the novelist E.M. Forster|
All of which puts us in mind of E.M. Forster's essay 'What I Believe' in which, in consideration of friendship, he writes 'If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country'. Happily we have not been called upon to do either. And if truth is to be told, then the closest we have ever come to espionage is in knowing the son of Kim Philby who, with Guy Burgess and Donald MacLean, spied for the Soviet Union and defected to Moscow in the 1960s.
|Kim Philby depicted on a 1990 USSR stamp|
Forster is not, of course, alone in the value he attaches to friendship. Dante places both Brutus and Cassius in the lowest circle of Hell when they choose to betray their friend Caesar rather than Rome.
The last two or so years have not been the easiest. During this time we have together successfully fought a rare form of leukaemia, now six months in full remission, which for over a year delayed much needed spinal surgery, carried out most successfully on Wednesday of last week. The death on Christmas Day of the only surviving parent added great sadness and further complexities to our lives.
|hands joined in friendship|
We should not, in any sense, be where we are today without the love and support of so many of our friends both here and in our adopted country of Hungary. But, equally important to us, have we been so touched by the enormous friendship we have felt from so many of you throughout the Blogosphere from across the world. Your comments, emails, cards and messages have meant so very much to us both and have served to enrich our lives beyond all measure. For this we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts; this post is for you.