Remona Aly
Wednesday 17 July 2019 Pause for Thought, BBC Radio 2

Birthdays, Bezzos and Bad karaoke

Birthdays, bezzos and bad karaoke
Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2, Zoe Ball Breakfast Show

Last weekend, I was sardined in a box room with a glitterball, a Tina Turner wig and 15 unhinged women. We charged at karaoke like bulls to a red rag, to mark a best friend’s milestone birthday.

Before we’d let loose with terrifically appalling versions of ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’, ‘Mr Brightside’ and ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’, our female troupe had taken some vows together over tea and cake. “Dearly beloved”, I addressed the congregation of uni friends, colleagues, and kindred spirits, “we are gathered here today to join this woman, with all these women.”

There followed a series of wedding style speeches, running mascara, and bursts of laughter as we celebrated the milestone through the marriage of friendship, love and sisterhood.

That night, I thought of how life’s milestones are places you do not reach on your own. Back in the day, they were used as markers to tell you how far you’d come, reassure you that you’re on the right path, and point you towards your next destination. That came home to me as I looked around the room, and realised how milestones are measured in true friendships.

It was due to a profound friendship, that Rumi, a bookish Muslim scholar, turned into a universal love poet, after he met Shams Tabrizi, a wandering holy man, who was to become his mentor and greatest friend. Eight centuries later, I feel that Shams is the reason that Rumi is one of the world’s bestselling poets.

Friends can do that to you. They save you, they lift you, they can shape you and even your legacy. And when it’s a friend of mine who is succeeding, I feel their achievement becomes my own too. As Rumi writes, probably addressing Shams, “The beauty you see in me, is a reflection of you.”..“Friend, our closeness is this: anywhere you put your foot, feel me in the firmness under you.”

I think of the friends I’ve had in the past, the ones I hold now, the ones I’m yet to meet, and I know they will always be part of the path I tread, and the milestones we will reach together. Like last weekend when I sang in my awful karaoke voice to my beloved friend on her birthday: we can build this thing together, Stand this stormy weather, Nothing’s gonna stop us now.