Last Wednesday, Clare announced she was leaving the blog. You left some beautiful comments for her. She was moved. Although, she’s Clare, so she’d never admit it.
Anna: Gah. The comments on your post today, C. WEEPING.
Clare: I know!
Aisling: So bloody lovely.
[five minutes later]
Clare: I guess the comments are ok. They’re probably all just saying that to make me feel better.
Anna: Probably. They’re actually all round mine, having a party.
Clare: I knew it. Do you have wotsits?
I first emailed Clare in July of 2010. It was because she was struggling to find a wedding dress and I was sad for her. As it turns out, I was the sum total of knob all help when it came to finding The Dress. And yet, we continued to email.Our emails, back then, were 98% nonsense and 2% deep and dark secrets. Clare was the first person I ever admitted out loud to that I was struggling to conceive. She invites confidences like that. I’d trust her with my life, with Stella’s life. When she was in the UK in September for a flying pre-wedding visit we met for a quick coffee. We continued to email. So many emails I’m surprised the internet didn’t run out. It was in one of those emails that Clare invited Phil and I to her wedding. Her WEDDING. This clever, sharp, thoughtful, beautiful and generous jetsetting bundle of incredible invited ME to her wedding. I was floored.
That perfect frosty day in November cemented that which I’d begun to suspect. I had made a friend for life. And what a friend.
As an aside, The Dress was an insane kind of perfection that I’m yet to see matched. And she wore it like a BOSS.
The first time I met Clare was when she, I and Lucy spent a weekend together at Aisling’s house. When Aisling picked Lucy and I up from the station, Clare was hanging out of the passenger door of the car holding up a giant, cardboard cut-out teapot. It was love at first sight.
The thing with Clare is, she’s a hard nut to crack. She’s very composed (giant tea pot aside), and doesn’t let much show on her face. Whereas I let everything show on my face, like some sort of emotional exhibitionist. So you say something to Clare and then the unobservant eye will never quite know how it’s gone down. But if you know Clare, then you do know, because she can mock herself like no-one else on this earth. The ability to mock oneself is a non-negotiable in a friend, for me. Clare has it in spades. She’ll mock herself, and you, and then herself again, all in the same breath, all deadpan, whilst keeping that composed look on her face.
That weekend that GIAT first spent together in my house was a sandwich of a weekend. Started brilliantly, got a bit cack (from my perspective, anywho) in the middle and ended spectacularly. I had a migraine, you see, that Saturday evening. Timing always was my strong point. Not. I’ll never forget Clare coming upstairs to help me make my bed, bringing with her a glass of water and making sure I had everything I needed. It wasn’t a grand gesture, she wasn’t making a fuss. She was just being gentle and kind. She was, and remains, one of the kindest and gentlest people I know.
I couldn’t imagine what Clare would be like as a mother. I knew she was one, but I’d always imagined mothers as round, friendly types carrying rugs and facewipes and handing out snacks. Clare wears cowboy boots and spends too much money in Space NK. I couldn’t reconcile the two.
Last year, we went to visit Clare in Cheltenham. In the morning, Emmi threw her cereal all over the kitchen floor. I stood in the doorway and watched, as Clare picked up every piece, refusing to acknowledge Emmi and what she’d done. Emmi stood there, silent, staring at Clare, waving a bit, looking impossibly innocent of any wrongdoing, trying to get her attention. It didn’t work. No acknowledgement for bad behaviour. Emmi then padded up to Clare and hugged her leg. ”Come round here for a proper hug” said Clare. ”Are you sorry now?” And Emmi was, and she buried her face in Clare’s neck, and I thought “what did I know? She’s really good at this”
It’s almost impossible to shock Clare. You could go to Clare and confess your love of being walked on by men wearing cassocks and she wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. You can tell Clare things you wouldn’t admit even to yourself and she wouldn’t judge you. She’d probably join in. She’d defend you to the end. She’d drive your getaway car. Never underestimate the value of a friend whose moral compass points North but who’s willing to go the long route to get there.
I’m not going to lie, Anna and I planned to write this post alongside each other - a tribute to the aloof-est of the AOWs, designed specifically to make her squirm and hide from the interwebs for a day. And then of course, OCD AOW went and got all organised and productive and wrote her bits before I’d even remembered how to spell Clare. ‘I’m worried it’s a bit shit’, she said. ‘Inspire me’, she said.
‘BUGGER OFF.’ I said. Because in that glorious, understated, breathing-life-into-words way that she does, Anna has described Clare to you all in a way that I have struggled to add to or enhance. Clare is everything that this post says she is. She’s more than all of it put together. More than I have words for.
She’s a part of my life that I am inordinately thankful for. A constant presence that I quite honestly could not have been without at times. It’s not been all unicorns and rainbows, as Anna points out. That bastardy time difference is a pig. I miss her, constantly. I miss Emmi. Sod it, I miss Andy too. He’s a handsome chap. But I wouldn’t have changed a bit of our blog journey together – who knows what might have turned out differently?
All that matters, all that really and truly matters is that Clare, Anna and I will be friends forever. I will never take for granted how lucky I am to know these two wonderful women. When AOW is no more and we are wrinkled and softer and slower than we are now, we will have our friendship. And we will, I’m sure, still be overusing the word ‘knobber’.
Running a blog with someone who lives on the other side of the world is not easy. Communicating almost solely by text and email isn’t easy either. This post is supposed to be just about Clare but I’ll drag Aisling into this part as well. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve woken up to a text message conversation that’s had me laughing like a drain; or taken on some sort of madcap blog project that’s made us all realise our strengths and…let’s say development points; or had a life-related crisis that has gone from being The End Of The World to Not That Important, Really in one breath. I have lost count of the times I have been convinced I’m right and had my views on the world turned upside down/maturely challenged/resoundingly mocked [delete as appropriate] and enjoyed it. I have lost count of the amount of times I’ve marvelled that I can be such good friends with someone who enjoys making paper pompoms or gets excited about a camera lens, and then realised I’m a better person for it.
I have lost count of the times I have thought of those two women as completely extraordinary. We three work because we are all so different on the surface but underneath, we’re hardwired the same; tell us your story, we’ll listen, we’ll leave you feeling better about yourselves than when you arrived. I’m proud to be part of that. I can honestly say I couldn’t have co-run this blog, or enjoyed it so much, or learned so much about myself, with anyone else.
So, Clare is leaving, for a world where she can get excited about camera lenses and camera straps and the light, the light, and be mocked a little less for it. But she’s not leaving, really, because you don’t manage a blog like Any Other Woman and then leave. The stories and the memories and above all the people get into your blood and under your skin and remain a part of you. They’re part of Clare.