Ever since buying her Northampton flat in 2018, Gemma had struggled with unpredictable gas bills. When her bill went up to six times the average rate at the start of last year, she had no idea it would start a new friendship.
“I was crying on the phone to the management company trying to get it sorted out,” she says. “It turned out we were being charged commercial rates instead of residential.”
She soon discovered others in her building were having the same problem, including Annie, who owned a one-bedroom flat on a different floor. “When I got a bill that went from £50 to £500, I went on a bit of a rampage,” Annie says. “I was working for a housing association at the time, so I organised a meeting with the local councillor in June and put notes under doors inviting my neighbours to come.”
Gemma decided to attend and was pleasantly surprised to discover that Annie was of a similar age. “I sat next to her in the meeting because I really wanted to be her friend,” she laughs, “though I thought she seemed quite alternative and might not find me cool enough.”
After the meeting, Annie invited Gemma for a glass of wine on her balcony. “I discovered we were both single, and thought it would be really nice to get to know her as we were in the same situation,” she says. “I also found her hilarious.” From that day, the pair hit it off and quickly became close friends.
“We are both strong and independent, with a similar sense of humour,” says Annie. “We talked about what a shame it was we hadn’t met earlier, as we could have bubbled together during the lockdowns.” Gemma says they bonded quickly over their common interests. “We both love music and play instruments; I play the piano, and Annie plays guitar.”
Over the summer, they took regular trips together, including a visit to a farm and a wine tasting. “It’s nice to have someone to plan adventures with,” says Gemma. “We also spend a lot of time having drinks and dinner at each other’s flats and laughing at Annie’s guinea pigs.”
During the winter, anxious about the rising cost of gas, they saved money by spending time together. “We were really frugal. We were still worried about getting crazy bills because of this communal heating system, so we’d just heat one flat,” says Annie. “We ended up binge-watching The Traitors together.”
Gemma works in product development for Avon, while Annie now works in the press office at Warwick University. “When Annie got a new job, we celebrated,” says Gemma. “It’s nice that we can celebrate each other’s successes together.”
Annie loves that her friend is arty and quirky. “She’s a great interior designer and she’s always helping me pick up these great little bargains for my flat,” she says. They also both appreciate how invested they are in the friendship. “I have been dating, but it doesn’t feel essential to meet someone,” says Annie. “We have come to realise that friendship is just as important as a romantic relationships.”
Gemma believes that society places too much emphasis on the importance of falling in love. “I really think people should put more into other relationships, because they’re so rewarding,” she says. “You usually only have one romantic relationship at a time, but you can have many friends. Good friendships last a lifetime, so they’re worth investing in. Annie is kind, generous, funny and really smart, so we always have fun together.”
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