Come on holiday with me and my best mate

Image by the brilliant Stuart F Taylor

I’m down at the moment, and sometimes when I’m down I like to wallow in romance. But it’s not romance like ‘we’re getting married’ or romance like ‘we’re gonna fuck’, it’s the romance that pulses through friendship – steady and unwavering and safe and comfortable – never needing to escalate because it’s already right where it should be. Come on holiday with me and my best mate.

The first thing you need to do before this holiday is stock up on tins for the train. Lager perhaps, or M&S cocktails if you’re fancy. But if you’re us you’ll pick cider: Thatcher’s Gold, but Strongbow will do in a pinch. Grab a few cans from the corner shop to make sure you’ve got something to drink on the journey in the morning.

Then tank all those cans at my house the night before we’re due to leave, because that’s what we always do.

Sing with us, too. As loudly as you like. Because our only rule is that if you know the words you have to join in. The night before we go away we realise it’s been such a long time since the pair of us were alone, so we put on all the songs that annoy the rest of our mates and sing and sing and sing and sing and sing. Repeating our favourite tracks two, three or four times, because there’s no one else around to roll their eyes or stop us.

The next morning, pre-train, we grab more cans. He goes to M&S, I go to Sainsbury’s, and each of us buys extra from our shop ‘just in case’ the other one forgot, so now we’re rich in cider and pre-mixed cocktails – emperors of the Great Western Railway.

When we get to where we’re going, it takes less than a minute for my best mate to meet a stranger. The stranger’s going in the same direction as we are so sure, we’ll share a cab. My bestie makes friends as easily as the rest of us breathe out, and I’m used to this by now. I complain about the horror of his extrovert ways, but secretly I’m delighted. Because when you’re friends with someone who makes other friends so easily, wherever you go it’s like hanging with a celebrity.

At festivals, I sit at the campsite bonding with all these strangers I’d normally have walked straight past, and even as I sit there crafting brand new friendships of my own, more new people come up to ask me where my BFF is: “Have you seen him? Where is he? Tell him I said hi!”

I’m the PA to his entourage, and it rocks.

People ask us how we met and I revel in telling them the story. I like to tell them ‘this guy? Yeah, he’s lovely. Learn just how lovely, come join us for a drink.’

On day two of our holiday, a woman comes up to (kindly, delusionally) congratulate me on some karaoke. The second question out of her mouth is ‘are you two together?’ and later we argue over whether she was asking because she fancied him, or fancied me.

On this particular trip quite a few people ask if we’re together – far more than usual. We shake our heads and joke about how we’re cockblocking each other. Consider getting t-shirts printed that say ‘FFS, I’m single’.

At one point, we win 50 quid on a fruit machine. He lets me press the buttons even though it’s all his money, and I feel special and lucky and excited that I get to hit ‘collect’ and hear the torrent pour forth.

Another night he nudges me towards a man I like. Tells me “if he were single, he would, I fucking know it.” I point women towards him in return, offering him up like a batch of canapés – “Have you met my best mate? He’s awesome.”

Once, a boyfriend asked me: “I know you say that he’s your best friend, but I’m your best friend really, aren’t I?”

In the moment, I told him “yes, of course” because it was what he needed to hear. But later I found myself sad that he’d asked the question. That there had been a competition running which I was now expected to judge. The relationship I have with my best mate is very different (dare I say ‘more equal’) than any I’ve ever had with a long term partner. I trust him in ways I do not trust other men – which is not to say he never does my head in, of course. Sometimes he exasperates me to the point where I want to bundle him into a cupboard and lock him away until he’s sober. But the ways in which he’ll piss me off are predictable and understandable and safe. He’s messy and disastrous and shambolic, but never spiteful or cruel. You don’t survive twenty years of friendship without hurting one another sometimes, but he has never hurt me on purpose.

As he recently explained to a random man who told us we have ‘couple energy’, it’s partly about the closeness that comes with time. Time builds intimacy like almost nothing else. The beauty of being friends for as long as we have is that you have solid empirical evidence that the other one won’t leave you on a whim. You can be your nightmare self and know they will still love you, even if they’re pissed off in that moment. I’ve already seen my best friend at his worst, and I love him regardless. Vice versa, too, of course. He’s seen me at my saddest, my meanest, my messiest, my ugliest in every way, and he still invites me out for pints and parties. Still puts his arm around me and introduces me to a seemingly infinite supply of strangers, saying ‘this is my best mate’ with a cheerful glow.

Anyway. You’re on holiday with us, so you don’t have to deal with this heavy shit. But at some point towards the end of our trip, you might ask the same question a mutual friend did:

“Do you guys have a pact?”

“A what?”

“A pact… like… if you’re not married to other people by the age of forty you’ll marry each other, or something.”

We both take a moment to drink that in. Blink together in the stark, weird light of it.


We do not have a pact.

To have a pact like that is to imply that what we have can never be as worthwhile as a ‘proper’ relationship. To have a pact like that is to imply that this is not a proper relationship. It implies that what we have isn’t really what we want, and that either of us would ditch it in a heartbeat if required to secure a loving spouse.

On the train home from this holiday, come join us in nursing the hangovers that are noticeably worse than they used to be. The ones that’ll be hell by the time we hit fifty. Grab yourself a matching Tesco meal deal and join in as we head home – teasing each other about how both of us failed to get laid, telling stories that we’ll echo until we’re eighty and beyond.

Bask in the joy that I feel when we’re together. And note that friendship like this is a precious, treasured gift. It will never be a consolation prize.



If you enjoyed this, you might also like the love letter I wrote to another incredible friend – Jess, who makes me ham and cheese croissants



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.