Tuesday, August 30, 2011


There are friends whom you haven't seen for years, but you pick up exactly where you left off.  Riffing for hours. Rina, also a Kiwi, is such a friend. This weekend she dramatically decided to fly over from London where she lives, while listening to a marathon of speeches at a hospital retirement party. As soon as I picked her up from the airport she told me about the final speech. One doctor said the retiring woman had been a perfect nurse: "Hard-working, pleasant...and fat." Rina always arrives well-armed with bon mots and bizarre anecdotes.

Mike, Me, Rina and Kenny
I met Rina 22 years ago in a hotel in Cairo. We were both backpacking through Egypt and at that stage I was traveling by myself.  We bumped into each other again climbing Mt Sinai. She was with bickering sisters and fleeing three randy Israelis vying for her favour and was relieved to have a buffer.

Rina, her entourage and I at top Mt Sinai
We met again back in London where I was working as a journalist and she as an anesthesiologist.  She was different from the rest of the Kiwi crowd - she had wheels, a Fiat Panda, and on several weekends we blatted off for mini-breaks in the wilds of Britain, ostensibly to ride horses. We both envisaged ourselves galloping over the green hills, the wind blowing through any strands of hair which escaped our black velvet riding hats.  As I've said before in another horsey post, Rina sighed: "All I want to say is: 'Whoah there my beauty!'"( in true Bronte style). Instead we were heaved onto farty old nags who could barely move one step without tugging their heads down and grabbing another gobful of grass.

Rina and I horse trekking in Wales
She was there when Kevin and I first met and we would frequent a Chelsea nightclub in which Kevin had a tiny investment. This was a place where Chaka Khan's sister, Taka, was the top-billed act. (You didn't know her?) We turned up one night to be told the kitchen had run out of food which was just as well because the cutlery had disappeared.  It was no surprise to learn the barman was an chronic alcoholic and the manager a gambler and the club closed it's doors.

Later I persuaded Rina to be in one of my articles for London Evening Standard about being single in London.  I don't write the headlines but you can image how thrilled she was to be smiling under this particular one. "Bright, single, 30-plus and...looking for a man." Oh, she was so happy. JK(Just kidding) as Cy would say, she was apoplectic.

Evening Standard, 2 October 1996
Once the constant JK-ing at her hospital died down and the rash of letters from sundry oddballs and stalkers trailed off, I wrote another article, this time on single men in London. "Desperately seeking someone single."But the previous headline flashed up again. Rina was still horrified but ruefully confided it was one of her most widely-read publications as a doctor.

One year later I contacted the five women to see if they were still single. "No comment" said Rina, hoping that would be the end of it. But there was that headline again. Happy ending though, phhew, she is married to a Kiwi architect and has a three-year-old girl called Pashmina. Hmm... maybe time to do yet another follow-up.

Her four-day visit here was an opportunity to be a tourist again in Oakland and San Francisco and we walked the length of the city for four hours, from the greasy Pier 52 to open Chrissy Field with views of the Golden Gate Bridge and back to North Beach with smells of pizza, garlic and hazy revellers from last night's comedy shows.

Chrissy Fields
Rina in North Beach
Rina soon ascertained that the Bay Area prides itself on being a gastronomic haven, quality local produce served with passion and occasion. So that evening while friends Kenny'n'Mike treated us to a meal at Oakland's Camino restaurant, she proudly claimed that despite being a busy mother in central London she plucked the first crop of her tomatoes this summer.  Kenny quizzed her - which variety? - heirloom..? Those ones from the Black Sea? "Just cherry, basic cherry, but slightly orange," she replied visibly miffed that her only organic produce story had been upstaged so early in the evening.

Rina described our larder (pantry) as the size of a  "small aircraft hangar" and was incredulous that I've replaced cooking with "assembling." Then she admitted these days she merely "dipped" and did not even warm her pre-prepareds.

A dipping and assembling Barbie
Coming down to breakfast after a rowdy barbecue the night before, Rina found herself facing a kitchen littered with 15 wine bottles, two sliced un-eaten watermelon, pizza dotting the TV room and dirty plates piled up.  It was first day back to school and Cy, seven, was packing a lunch of left-over chocolate-covered pretzels with a face still painted from the night before. Then she was treated to a full-on fight between Jackson, 12, and Cy, culminating in Jackson whacking Cy with a Whiffle-ball bat.

A Whiffle ball dispute (surely the worst kind). It wasn't even 7.30am and I'm sure Rina was very ready to return home to her small but perfectly-formed cherry tomatoes.

Have you riffed with the Rina in your life lately?


  1. Well, the two of you certainly had a grand time together.
    Lucky she's still talking to you after the headline on your article. (Yeah, headline writers can be a real pain!)

  2. Think I remember reading those ES articles! Wondering if I would ever find a man...sounds like you had a wonderful time!

  3. I laughed so hard when I read that newspaper title, truly cringe-worthy! And so great that she could come visit--there's nothing like catching up with an old friend when it feels like it picks up exactly where it left off.

    xo Mary Jo

  4. OH my gosh---- the newspaper piece is hysterical! I love friends like that- where there is no work falling into your habits....

  5. It is nice that Rina could come visit you!
    Amazing memories and pictures!! I smiled at that newspaper title!!


  6. What amazing memories! I do have a few such friends and this reminds me: It is been much too long!!

  7. Hilarious! I'm sure she had a great time - your kids sound totally normal!

  8. What a great post, my best friend Sharon was my Rina, we met in LA when we were about 17, she had run away from Scotland to get married to a guy who wasn't Jewish - she was a scandal in the making - alas she died a few years ago. This post reminds me of her and our meeting.

  9. I have a friend like that too but it has been waaay too long since I've seen her. And she just lives in Oregon - no excuses!

    The headline on that article was so . . . large. Hopefully she thinks it's funny now!


  10. Sounds like you had a great time with your friend.I think your home looks fab!!Even with the fifteen wine bottles the kitchen would still have the wow factor!!

  11. I only wish I had a Rina to riff with.

    (how's THAT for a tongue twister, eh?) ;)

    Loved reading this... especially the last few paragraphs :).

  12. Wow, the two of you have lead quite the life! It is wonderful to have friends like that.

  13. There's nothing better than time spent with old friends. I just had a quick visit back home and was able to spend time with friends. It's like I had never left.

  14. My Rina is named "Muir", and when she moved from Cali to NYC last year, i booked my plane ticket immediately. We'd met when i moved to SF from NYC 20 years ago, and we always get a good laugh at the fact that she was asked to do a "peer interview" with me, at my first high-tech start-up. Basically, she tells her higher-ups: "she'll be awesome! she's really fun and i want to be her friend and hang out with her". wow - how professional! I got the job, she got laid off a few months later, but we've been friends throughout many years & many jobs. she is my brain trust...for better or worse, she remembers everything i've done in the last 20 years, on what date, with whom, where, etc. This comes in quite handy when i don't recall if my 3rd kid was born on March 27th or 29th (27th?), or what year it was when i met my husband, and the name of the person who preceded him, what band played that time we....etc. but NOT so handy when she remembers the occasional darker tidbit. i must always keep Muir on my good side:-) we had a relaxing, decadent weekend in NYC in Feb. together, ending at the Spotted Pig in SOHO, and my next visit is coming soon. Pizza Slice man, watch out.

  15. PS - scary that my husband works for a man who has the business acumen to invest in a place with an alcoholic bartender and gambling manager. hmmmmmmmm

  16. Old friendships with shared memories are so precious.

  17. what an interesting history you two have had. you're practically family.

  18. I love catching up with old friends. Love my new ones but something about reminiscing over old times brings back the best of memories! Love this post and all the pictures

  19. Haha! What a brilliant title for the newspaper article - I love! And how wonderful that you have someone as amazing in Rina in your life! :)

  20. A lovely post about friendship. The newspaper title is so funny. xo

  21. You know you have a special friendship when a lot of time can pass, but when you meet up it is like no time has passed at all! What lovely to spend time with a great friend! Sounds like you ladies were destined to be friends the way you kept meeting up at different places!

  22. my best friend and i are like that too! sometimes months pass without us talking because life gets so busy and we go to different schools so our schedules don't always match, but when we do get to hang out it's like no time passed at all... it's awesome. :)

    <3, Mimi

  23. Ive been trying to get back together with a best friend I had in high school, but so far we keep missing each other. But I am very grateful for my best friend who I met in college. She went overseas in the military for a while and I wasnt sure if we would reconnect, but we did and now we see each other almost every month!

    I love these photos and Im glad you were able to reconnect with her and enjoy the time like you never lost each other. I always love the way you write and tell a story.

    PS were having a giveaway on the lifestyle blog! :)

    Enjoy the holiday!

  24. sounds like a lovely friendship...love those kind. xo


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