Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Celebrating International Friendship Day with heartening stories from the north-east

Left to right Jo, Katherine, Ruth and Julie.
Left to right Jo, Katherine, Ruth and Julie.

Friends are the family you get to choose, or so the saying goes.

The power and beauty of friendship remains at the heart of many a classic movie, from Disney’s Toy Story which of course dedicated a whole song to the cause, to the BBC adaptation of Dolly Alderton’s memoir, Everything I know About Love.

Not to mention the sitcom which launched the career of Jennifer Aniston; like it or loathe it, Friends has stood the test of time.

Friendship can keep us grounded in the most difficult of times.

What is it that we find so captivating about the simple bond of friendship?

From the moment we enter a social setting in early childhood, be that nursery or the milestone of starting school, making friends can become key to thriving in that environment.

The fierce friendships we forge with pinky promises in the playground can go on to shape who we are as adults, our memories entwined with snapshots from giggling sleep-overs and the heady joy of the long summer holidays.

Marriage, bereavement and every messy shred in between, women in particular forge solid friendships which see them through life.

Women in particular can form deep and lasting friendships.

Men, in comparison, don’t seem to rely as heavily on such bonds, with one in five men admitting to having no close friends according to a YouGov poll.

Whilst we are certain that tales of male friendship do exist, no one was forthcoming for this particular feature on National Friendship Day.

The silence speaks for itself, but in the meantime we discovered heartening tales of friendship which have stood the test of time.

From matching tattoos to mishap holidays and secondary school memories, we found out why friendship really can be life-saving.

The Codonas Crew

There’s an awful lot of giggling going on from this particular group, and the kind of in jokes which have become second nature over the years.

Ranging in age from 33 to 49, and geographically spread from London to Aberdeen and the shire, this is a very special bond between eight people.

The group consists of Lorna Gordon, a mental health nurse, Val Cromar, who works in prison transport, hairdresser Leisa Miller, Arlene Ferguson, who is a bus driver, Michael McRitchie, general manager at The Wellington Hotel, Carol Cowe, who is a transport router, kitchen designer Kristina Wood, and finally Rio Mbirimi, who works in pharmaceuticals.

Back row, from left to right, is Michael, Carol, Lorna shortly before she gave birth to her daughter, Rio and Kristina. Front row is Arlene, Leisa and Val.

You couldn’t get a more varied bunch, and yet the group have been friends for around 17 years.

Going the distance

It all started when original members Lorna, Kristina, Rio and Michael met while working at Codonas on Aberdeen beachfront when they were just 18.

The group has since doubled in size, with the introduction of house mates and friends of friends.

And yet somehow, it just works.

Lorna, who is the agony aunt of the group, believes distance doesn’t matter.

“Rio is originally from Zimbabwe, we met her whilst at university and now she lives in Kent,” says Lorna.

“The rest of us are in Aberdeen and the shire.

“We are similar in a lot of ways, we balance each other out and take turns to be the crazy one.

“We don’t always agree, but there is unconditional love.”

The four original members even went as far in getting matching tattoos, a piece of a puzzle which they designed themselves.

Left to right: Rio, Michael, Lorna and Kristina have matching tattoos to celebrate their friendship.

“It was in 2012, and when you put all the puzzle pieces together, it reads ‘friends are the family that we choose for ourselves’,” explains Lorna.

“I have mine on my back, to show I’ll always have your back.

“Michael’s is on his arm, always an arm around us.

“Kristina’s is on her shoulder, a shoulder to cry on.

“And Rio’s is on her hip, always someone to walk beside us.

“We’ve done everything together, the eight of us.

“Break-ups, make-ups, marriages, babies, deaths and celebrations. The good times and the bad.

“It has strengthened us, there’s not one person I couldn’t call at 2am to say I need you.

“I was there on the day Kristina’s daughter was born, actually at the hospital. We are all her aunties and uncle.”

Perks of technology

Although the group don’t see each other every day, they keep in regular contact.

“We keep in contact every day, social media has changed how we keep in touch,” says Lorna.

“I see Michael weekly as we live close by to each other. We haven’t seen Rio since last year, but she’s coming up in August which is so exciting.

“We’ll be meeting her new boyfriend – we’re an accepting bunch but we come as a package deal.

“You can either deal with us or you can’t.”

So close is the group, that they are also entwined with each other’s families.

“We have friends and interests outside of the group,” says Lorna. “But we always gravitate back towards each other, it’s like coming home.

“My family live in England, but my mum and dad never worry about me.

“They know I have my own family here thanks to the group. Any one of them could go and see my mum and dad, rock up without me being there.”

There’s also more than a decade’s worth of memories which cements the group together.

“I was turning 30 and I refused to accept it,” says Lorna.

“I didn’t want to be in the country for my birthday, I thought I couldn’t turn 30 if no one wished me happy birthday.

“We booked the cheapest flight leaving Aberdeen, we thought we were all off to Budapest.

“It was actually Bucharest in Romania, where not an awful lot of English is spoken.

“We actually had an amazing time. I think I’ve accepted turning 30 now.”

With ageing an inevitable part of life, the group also have grand plans for when they perhaps need a bit more help.

“We joke that we’re going to win the lottery, and build a commune where we all live,” says Lorna.

“Although I married an Aberdonian, I don’t think I’d necessarily have stayed in this area were it not for the group.

“I wanted to raise my daughter around them, we really are family.”

Maidens, Mothers, Crones

This hilarious name has been chosen by Katherine Harvey, Ruth Alexander, Julie Cunningham and Jo Scollin, who have all recently celebrated their 50th birthdays together.

In fact the group have even come back together today, with a planned outing to see an exhibition at the V&A.

Careful planning and making a real effort to see each other means this friendship group really has stood the test of time.

Amazingly, Katherine, who is an operations director for a financial planning firm, and Ruth, who has recently retrained as a ranger at National Trust for Scotland, first met each other at nursery.

Katherine then went on to meet Jo, now a teaching assistant, at primary school, before making friends with Julie, an interpreter and translator, at secondary school.

Left to right. Julie Cunningham, Ruth Alexander, Katherine Harvey and Jo Scollin on Katherine’s wedding day in July 2108.

“I’ve known Ruth longer than I’ve known my little sister,” says Katherine, who lives in Aberdeen, while Ruth stays in Pitlochry and Jo and Julie reside in Glasgow.

“The three of us ended up at Aberdeen Grammar, whilst Jo went to Harlow.

“But our paths crossed because of drama classes, so we’ve really all known each together since early teens.

“I’m the common thread, Julie always tells the story of how we met.

“She was new to Aberdeen and I went up to her on the bus. I said, ‘are you new and would you like a friend?'”

Letters of love

Little could a young Katherine and Julie know that they would go on to celebrate their 50th birthdays together at a holiday cottage on the west coast, where they were even blessed with the weather.

While Julie, Jo and Ruth headed to university in Glasgow, Katherine stayed behind before deciding to study in Edinburgh.

Distance did not diminish the friendship, and the group have come across the beautiful letters they wrote to each other.

“It seems crazy now, but we used to write letters to each other,” says Katherine.

“We didn’t have social media or email back then. I remember Ruth presenting me with this bag of letters which she had kept.

“We were great pen pals before I moved to the central belt.”

Left to right Jo, Katherine, Ruth and Julie.

The group have scattered once more over the passing years, and have seen each other through marriage breakdowns, motherhood and bereavements.

All four women have daughters, who have since become friends.

Family bond

“We had our first mothers and daughters weekend away now our girls are older,” says Katherine.

“The oldest two in particular are only a year apart, and they have become such good friends.

“Every time the four of us meet up, it feels like therapy.

“We have all been through the ringer in different ways; it’s such a joyous time when we are together.

“We are like sisters, and I think the older we get the more we crave that time together.”

Katherine commissioned a piece of artwork for their birthday celebrations, four individual pieces that also come together as one piece.

“I remember saying to the group, these friendships have been one of the greatest joys of my life, truly,” says Katherine.

“We all have the same silver bangle with a particular knot on it, meaning maidens, mothers, crones.

“We met as girls, became mothers and now we’re all getting on a bit.

“We are all there for each other, always.”

Transatlantic friendship

A relocation to Canada wasn’t enough to dull the bond between Rebecca McKenzie and Elza McCartney, who have been best friends for an incredible 38 years.

They are planning to celebrate their 50th birthday this year, having first met at Aberdeen Grammar School.

“It was first year, and we hadn’t really been super-chummy at school,” recalls Rebecca.

“It was the summer and I had a party. She came along and we had the most fun together, it was this lightbulb moment.

“She phoned me the next day and said let’s be best friends. That was that.”

Rebecca McKenzie with best friend Elza McCartney. The pair have been friends for 38 years.

Rebecca believes that Elza is the more calm one, and the pair have supported each other through the twists and turns of life.

“We have the same sense of humour and we love making each other laugh,” says Rebecca.

“I tend to blow things out of proportion, but I can be the calm one for her in a crisis.

“She will come to me over anyone else. We’ve been there for each other through all the ups and downs; when my dad died she was that person for me.”

Reunions all the sweeter

Elza moved to Canada in 2008, which could have been a pivotal moment for the friendship.

“We loved going out; even after Elza became a mum she said we’re still going out on a Friday night, right?” says Rebecca.

“I think she needed a few drinks to get up the courage to tell me.

“She told me her other half wanted to move to Canada, and that they were actually going to do it.

“When it’s someone you love, the first thing you think is oh my god.

“Of course I was gutted, but I was also excited for her.

“We knew it wouldn’t change things. Elza comes home twice a year and our reunions are amazing.

“We talk at least twice a week on the phone as well.”

Rebecca and Elza have been friends for 38 years.

Elza and Rebecca have supported each other through their careers, with Elza teaching braille while Rebecca is a primary school teacher in the north-east.

“Elza is super athletic, she’s doing this 100 miles in 24 hours challenge whilst I’m still on couch to 5k,” laughs Rebecca.

“Life hasn’t gone exactly to plan and there have been bumps in the road.

“We know everything, and I mean everything, about each other. It’s no holds barred, and that has formed part of our bond.

“We made quite a duo in school as we are both quite tall. Even though we weren’t in the same class, we’d get other pupils to pass on notes.

“We’re more like family, we’d always say if we thought the other was out of line, and help them see the bigger picture.

“That’s what honesty and friendship is about.”