Someone told me about five “features” that can characterise a friendship and they are 1) similarity 2) proximity 3) ability to communicate 4) expression of positive emotions about the other 5) frequency.

I agree with some and not others. More importantly, how can these features help us to understand our friendships: past, present and future.

In reverse order, I like frequency, and would argue that to see someone once a year would make it hard to develop a friendship. If being positive about each other is the opposite of shouting and screaming then I also agree with number four.

The third needs no discussion as long as we allow “to communicate” to have a very general sense that can go beyond talking and listening.

But I don’t much like proximity and similarity. The internet, through FaceTime and Skype, gives us the ability to talk to friends all over the world. So why would we not exploit it. The thornier one is similarity. I think it is natural to fall into friendships with like-minded people; but it might be worth the challenge of exploring a friendship with someone who is unlike you.

 Do you have friends who are quite different from you?

 If you don’t, what about the idea of finding some?

 Perhaps it could be a warm friendship, but with a hint of challenge.

 Retirement: You won’t know what it is like until you get there.