She was the smart to my scruffy. Sensible to my silly. The calm to my chaotic. From the age of 3 she had a sharp symmetrical bob that neatly lay around her very clean, heart shaped face. I had a ball of hair that moved with the nits within it, around my dirty chin and bumpy nose. Her uniform was neat. I had to wear my knickers in P.E because I always forgot my gym kit. She was a prefect. I was deputy bin monitor.
Since we were three we've shared toys, church pews, homework, Generation Girl Dolls, arguments, beds, dance routines, the role of Buffy in our imagined games of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. From first communian, first boyfriends, first jobs, we were one another's fellow book worm. We spent saturday afternoons wandering down Sevenoaks high street in matching Berets from New Look and £3 to split on the photo booth in Boots. She was the Goal Defence to my Goal Keeper. We were Barbara Hershey and Bette Midler from Beaches, but eleven, and in Kent, and not really like them at all as I'm pretty certain we fell asleep trying to watch that film.
As our teenage years came, we faced big changes. Different schools. New friendship groups. The male species. Crucially, Imogen, at age 15, was there to break the news to me that my first every boyfriend, Smurf, had cheated on me by fornicating under the desk with a girl in his R.E class - so in Imogen's wise words " You probably shouldn't marry him". In contrast, Imogen was pretty certain that her boyfriend, James, clever, kind, kooky James, was probably the man for her. It turned out, age 15, she was right. And through thick and thin, they've stayed together - and I can say that, as they saw me absolutely DIE ON MY HOLE at the Cambridge Junction last July, and endured the entire thing with the patience of saints and neither of then, as they are so kind and loving, has ever said anything about it.
Like most friendships that become unbreakable through seeing each other suffer the trauma of practising for the 11+ under the guidance of demonic teachers, even when it has been months since seeing each other face to face with only phone calls and Facebook messages to keep ingrained, we slip back into our normal language as easily as magnets. Imogen still sensible, smart, considerate and oh so wise, me still looking like I've lost my hairbrush. Which I have.
To be asked to read at her wedding this October was the greatest honor. Alongside being invited to be a Hen at her Hen party, something I have never been asked to do before. My expectations of Hen parties are Tiger Tiger, Penis Hats and strippers. Instead, it which was the most relaxing, meditative and totally Imogen hen party there could have been, (perfectly organised by her sister, Emily): a scrapbook making workshop followed by afternoon tea. YES. You have not seen joy until you have seen a group of grown women all calmly drinking tea and nibbling scones whilst cutting and sticking, being creative, like children, making pages dedicated to the Bride to Be. It was simply fun.
Then... the big day. The wedding. Your oldest friend is doing one of the most grownup things you were told you were meant to do when you grow up - meaning, she has actually grown up!
I was as prepared as a criminal preparing for a heist when it came to the reading. There was no medication left untouched. No comfortable shoe left untested for maximum stability. My mum did my make up so I didn't look like, in her words "the grudge". I wore the dress my Nanny Squeak wore to my mum's wedding. So my mum was certain I wouldn't flash anyone or in anyway attract any arousal from anyone. The boyfriend was there to make sure I did brush my hair, and again, not arouse anyone.
There is no need to describe the wedding in any other way except it was the perfect day - in the way you can imagine the perfect wedding day to be. Imogen glowed. James glowed. Her sisters glowed. Her sisters Emily and Ashley delivered beautiful speeches. Her dad hit the right notes of tear inducing, sentimental and fun - all whilst doing the amazing thing of keeping to five minutes - a wonderful trait only the British wedding seems to fully understand. Her family floated on happiness. And gin. There was a lot of gin. By the time I saw Imogen after the ceremony her English complexion was as rosy as Elizabeth Bennett after a country walk. What hit me was that she not only looked stunning, (as usual) and adult (as factually correct), but she looked like the exact same Imogen I remember when I was little. The one, who, when first invited to come and play after school at my house, whilst I cartwheeled and got naked in the garden, she calmly went into the conservatory to eat jam doughnuts and talk to my Nanny Squeak. That was and is our relationship - we let each other just get on with it. The love I felt for her was like really runny delicious Camembert - if that makes sense.
The reading Imogen and James asked me to read has stuck in my head - here it is.
It was from A Marriage of True Minds by George Spater and Ian Parsons.
[Virginia Woolf] said - and as though addressing herself rather than me [Bobo Meyer]: “what do you think is probably the happiest moment in one’s whole life?”. While I was wondering how I should answer this sudden question, she went on, with a strange but very quiet radiance in her voice: “I think it’s the moment when one is walking in one’s garden, perhaps picking off a few dead flowers, and suddenly one thinks: my husband lives in that house - And he loves me.” Her face shone as I had never seen it.
I give and feel irrevocable love for Imogen and James.