I’ve never known what it’s like to have a sister, I was gifted with two little brothers. I really wanted Mathew, the youngest of them, to be a girl called Stephanie (I was big into Grease II at the time). There’s been times I’ve longed for a sister, mostly as I’ve watched my brothers grow up as best mates, I wanted the same, someone to hang around with, share a room with, argue with and whatever else it is that sisters do.
Daisy Buchanan grew up with five younger sisters. Like me she’s the eldest, the big sister, the boss. Make no mistake about it, the eldest can be bloody horrible – I tortured my brothers growing up.
I thought I’d missed out not having sister’s but what this book reminded me is that I do. Daisy defines sisterhood as the people you feel the most comfortable with. If that is the case, then I’ve been very lucky over the years.
The subtitle of this book – a love letter to the women who have shaped me – got me thinking about the women in my life who’ve shaped me, and I don’t just mean the two famous Kate’s I idolise (Adie and Bush). Female friendships can be loving, intense, complicated and bitchy but they are also some of the greatest relationships you can have. So here’s five women who have helped shape me, there are many, many more….I can’t unfortunately write about you all 🙂
I met Ruth in year 7 at All Saints RC High school in Rossendale, we’d been lumped into the same form (Cribden), it was not an instant friendship. I spent first year thinking she was a snob, she thought I was stuck up. There was also the awkward moment she fancied my boyfriend, convinced him to dump me because she thought he’d ask her out and we both watched on as he asked someone else out. We’ve joked about thanking said boy and getting tattoos (we aren’t getting tattoos).
12 months on from that particular drama, we were sat next each other on the Ultimate at Lightwater Valley having got to know each other and finding we quite liked each other. Twenty-four years later she is still my best friend
We’ve grown up together, been in trouble together, followed each other on mad schemes, supported each other, argued, laughed together and cried on each other. It’s a friendship that’s survived boyfriends, university, different cities, and hundreds of miles of distance. I’ve driven the length of the country at a drop of a hat to be there for her. To pinch a line from Fleabag, I’d run through an airport for her.
Ruth and I have a part shared history, we’ve done some really stupid stuff together, we’ve had a bloody good time together (I could write a book). There aren’t many people who’d stand next to me taking the ‘disappointed’ talk off my dad for throwing an illegal house party, she did. There aren’t many people who’d agree to egging a neighbour’s house in revenge (I really was a shitty teenager) she did. There aren’t many people who’d agree to do a 100km walk in some of the worst weather Lancashire has ever seen, she did. I’m eternally sorry for dragging you over Hell Fell and actually risking our lives, even more sorry that I won’t return the favour and run a marathon with you.
It isn’t a perfect friendship (there’s no such thing), we disagree, we don’t talk on the phone (preferring to communicate by sending it each other memes on Instagram) but we love each other fiercely. If I had a body in the boot (and there’s been many contenders for this role) she’d be there to help.
I message her every time I hear 99 Red Balloons by Nena, in memory of a very bizarre A-level history class.
I know my – at times – inability to talk about things has driven her to distraction, I’m not an over-sharer, she knows I’ll talk eventually. Even if she has in the past threatened to ‘tear me a new one’ over this.
She could never be a journalist, in telling a story she goes around EVERY house on EVERY cul-de-sac. I’ve lost track of the original tale in the past, but I actually wouldn’t change this I think it’s hilarious.
We’ve seen each other through some of the worst times. We visited New York a couple of years ago, something we’d always talked about doing, I ended up going by default. We both could have been in better places. We’d both found ourselves at a crossroads in life. I’d been rejected for promotion and left wondering what the hell the plan was now; her life had been completely turned upside down. We took a lot of solace from each other that week, we had a good time, I’m convinced we met a famous couple in the Met but still to this day can’t work out who they are, and we laughed like always. I still say we need to go back.
We’ve both made mistakes but who hasn’t? We understand each other completely. We don’t let each other off the hook nor do we berate and judge. I wish she’d see how wonderful she is, I wish she’d stop giving herself a hard time. I know that whatever life throws at us, we’ll support each other through it, like always. I know there’s no shaking her off at this point not that I’d even want to try. We have many more years of belly laughs, drama, travels and schemes to come. Plus, we’ve still to complete that Dawson’s Creek boxset. I’ll be at the finish line of your first marathon in a few weeks time, with a massive banner and a tinfoil wrap. I love you mate.
AKA the woman who gave birth to me.
It’s hard to know where to start with mum. In some ways we’re identical, in others you couldn’t get two more different people.
My mum is a legend, I know everyone thinks this, but friends have actually referred to her as a legend. We look the same, have the same mannerisms, have the same mood swings and the same temperament.
I get my love of music from her and my sense of excitement over little things from her. She introduced me to ABBA, The Bay City Rollers and eighties music. I still remember clearly the child like delight she had when I told her we going to see the Take That’s circus tour – she’d liked them first time round but never seen them and I’d preferred Boyzone.
We share a love of, well, cheesy pop, I remember her spending hours on the phone getting Robbie Williams tickets when I was 15. Watching Take That is something we do together. My friend Charlotte and I took her to Little Mix in 2018, she loved it. I remember the conversation she had with another mum in the queue for the toilet:
Stranger: “I’m here with my daughter and her friend, they’re both 8”.
Mum: “I’m here with my daughter and her friend, only they’re 33”. She was proud as punch.
Mum is always singing, she’s always the first on the dance floor, she’ll talk to anyone. I love this about her, she doesn’t embarrass easily she just gets on with life with a smile on her face. She can also come up with an impressive fancy dress arriving at my 80’s themed 30th as 99 red balloons – 10 out of 10 for inventiveness!
She is the embodiment of stoicism, something else we share. She’s openly said, ‘I don’t talk about anything’, she finds it odd I have a therapist, she’d be mortified to know I’ve admitted it online. She takes on a lot with me, my brothers, dad and work, in recent years, I’ve watched her become a parent again, this time it’s her mum and dad she’s caring for. It’s difficult to watch someone you love lost to Alzheimer’s, it’s even more difficult to watch someone you love deal with the challenges, curve balls and emotions that come with caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. My mum would say, it’s just what you have to do, I think she could do with learning to ask for help a bit more.
She’ll just bugger on like everything is fine, occasionally getting stressed by it all, making light of the latest drama my Grandma’s caused at the care home (to be fair it is funny), I know deep down she gets upset but keeps running round like a mad woman.
We don’t always see eye to eye, she definitely thought she’d be a Grandma by now, I still want to see the world and have a career, she doesn’t want me to have any regrets. She’s said to me before ‘you aren’t a home-maker are you?’, no Mum, I’m not and that’s fine. We are learning to see the differences in each other.
In many ways she’s my best friend, it’s a relationship that’s got better as I’ve become an adult. She’ll always be the woman who taught me to sing like no one’s listening, dance like no one’s watching and love with all my heart – here’s to you mum.
Holly was my first boss, I owe her so much, I’ll never be able to thank her.
At 22, I was a shy, nervous, young woman desperate for a break in radio. I’d got my degree and stayed at university to do a post graduate diploma in broadcast journalism. To be honest before the post grad, I hadn’t given radio much thought. I knew I wanted to be a journalist from a young age but always assumed print or television would be the way I went, at some point though I fell in love with radio and it’s immediacy – I still get a kick out of getting an interview to air within 15 minutes.
After finishing university, it was hard to find a job, it was 2008 and every second person had a media degree. I slogged away at working for free, trying to pick up freelance shifts here and there, driving all over Yorkshire but still that break didn’t come. Until I walked into Ridings FM.
I’d applied for a job there and was doing a three-day placement (I found out I had an interview during it). I was desperate to impress as a reporter, I didn’t at that point have a voice for radio, but Holly saw something in me and gave me my shot. Thank God she didn’t make a decision based solely on my voice, I listened back to some old work recently and I have no idea how I ever gained employment. I sounded like a 12-year-old with the strongest Lancashire accent you could imagine.
I was a little bit in awe of Holly, she was young for an editor (26), she wanted her news service to be the best, as a result so did I and that’s something I’ve carried with me through my career. She did teach me to be a better journalist, there were times she’d give me a place in patch and tell me to ‘go and find a story’. This was before newsrooms had an over reliance on social media, I’d hate it at the time but learnt how to find exclusive, original content by knocking on doors. I’ve made my reporters do this since, I’ve shouted get off twitter and go out, it’s a harder task to police these days, everyone has a smart phone.
Eventually, I was given a pass from news reading and able to carve out my own reporter role and thrived. I got to do packages and speak to people, it did improve my voice. She gave me responsibility to put together pieces to mark the 25thanniversary of the miner’s strike (a big gig in Wakefield and Barnsley), I don’t think I ever told her how proud I was at that moment.
Late in 2008, Holly got ill, she was eventually diagnosed with Wegener’s Granulomatosis – it’s a type of vasculitis – it is incurable. It changed her life. I’d always known her to be very determined, she still was, she was determined to face her illness and lead the life she wanted. She got married, as planned, months after being diagnosed. In 2012 she gave birth to Robyn; she’d feared her treatment could have made her infertile. Being a mum was what she’d dreamed of. She became a trustee of Vasculitis UK, I remember reading an article about her in a national newspaper, one quote in particular stood out: “This experience has made me change my life. If I think back to the 26-year-old I was, my life is completely different now. I’ve had to make some big adaptations, but that doesn’t mean I’m unhappy with the life I have – I’m very happy”.
Holly lost her battle with Vasculitis in December 2018; I’m still completely shocked by that. In the last few years of her life we’d not seen each other as much, as people do. I’ll always be grateful to her for so many things, not just for taking a chance on me, but for making me the journalist I am, making me the editor I am, welcoming me at Ridings – I made some good friends there – and for being a friend too. I should have told her that while she was still here. Holly taught me how to be journalist but more importantly she taught me never to take life and friendship for granted – we’re only here for a fleeting moment, don’t let anything go unsaid. Sleep tight Hol, I’ll raise a glass to you.
I met Charlotte at St Mary’s 6thform, I scabbed a cigarette off her at the end of the first day. Again, we’d been put in the same form, had to endure the same hell bus over Grane Road and were both taking Media studies.
I remember in one of our first classes a teacher having trouble saying her (then) surname:
Teacher: “Is it Hoo-ar-e?”.
Charlotte: “No, it’s Hoare”.
I think I fell in love with her at that point, how could you not?
Charlotte along with Ruth is my ride or die. We’ve built a solid friendship on cider among other things.
People sometimes think of Charlotte as a no nonsense, loud (tbf she is), tough as nails woman. In many ways she is but she is so much more than that, she has the biggest heart of anyone I know and is a big softie. There’s never been a moment where we’ve lost touch, there was some slight weirdness when we started different universities but as soon as we got together in the Queens that Christmas it all disappeared, and we easily fell back into a normal rhythm and into the Rhythm Station most likely.
She might not cry at the Notebook (I know!), she does cry at the big things, the important things. She worries herself sick over the people she cares about. She once reported me as a missing person at Leeds festival, I was having a ball in a campsite disco on my own, I returned to the tent shouting ‘Lottie’ to see her with a very stern look on her face speaking to campsite security. We’ve had one argument, she told me she worried about that for days.
She’d drop everything to be there for her friends. We’d all do the same for her.
Charlotte’s refreshingly honest – she’s not nasty or judgemental – but she’ll give you an honest opinion, more of us could do with taking a leaf out of her book.
I’ve loved watching Charlotte become a mum. I found her pregnancy really stressful. I never told her this, but I was always paranoid she’d fall over or trip over a lose a paving stone or be force fed a kilo of brie or something. Having said that, I wish I’d have seen her meltdown over melted ice cream, she does throw an epic wobbler and I LOVE IT.
She’s been brutally honest about motherhood and how hard it can be at times; Thursday club was born out of this. Once a month while she was on maternity leave and I had a Friday off we’d go out for tea, a few pints and chat shit. I think we’ve had some of our best nights doing this, we’ve definitely had some of our most open conversations.
I know she questions her parenting at times, Charlotte, you’re doing a bloody good job and I’m in awe of you every day.
Over the years I’ve watched Charlotte fall apart more times than I’d wished, I’d have taken the pain for her if I could, each time she’s got up and come back stronger. Charlotte, I’m proud to be your friend, never, ever change.
Aubrey Duffy – the next generation.
In April 2017, a tiny little human, dramatically made a slightly early entrance into the world. We’d literally had a pre-baby lunch (not a baby shower Charlotte was very clear on that point) the day before.
Aubrey Grace Duffy arrived and she was the most beautiful little girl I’d ever seen. I was still petrified of holding her a couple of days later, I have a picture somewhere and I look like I’m holding a bomb.
Seeing a tiny human who’s the perfect blend of two of your oldest friends is an absolute joy, being able to see that tiny human grow and be part of her life is a privilege. Aubrey looks like Ronan with Charlotte’s blue eyes; she has Ronan’s mannerisms and Charlotte’s temper. She’s bloody clever and knows how to get her own way, she will be a force to be reckoned with and will leave a big mark on the world. I absolutely adore her.
I’m not the most child friendly woman in the world, in fact I can be pretty awkward around little people, but I love this kid. She makes us adults work hard for attention and it took her an annoyingly long time to master how to say Sarah. I’d love to know what she’s thinking, sometimes I’ve been convinced she’s looked at me and thought “You are one of my adults…seriously?”, sorry kid it’s true.
I’m looking forward to watching the teenage years play out but for the moment I’m happy to put pretend make up on Anna and Elsa, let you slide down the settee repeatedly and bury you in all the cushions.
Aubrey makes me want to make the world a safer, better place and that’s what I’ll try to do. I’d say be amazing, but you already are kid.
There we have it, there’s my five. There are so many more, Sinead, Kate, Cheryl, Rachel, Jodie, Sarah, Laura, Vicky, Beth, May, to name just a tiny few, I could start a whole new blog on the quite frankly outstanding women in life, I love you all xxxx
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm