Kit Nicholson, a friend of mine from university in the 70s (a poor second to Oxford in the 20s), recently wrote a poem called 'Friendship and Amity'. It is a work of art in itself, but by changing the word 'Amity' to 'Evelyn' in each of its ten verses I feel I have co-created something that puts its finger on the place that the word 'Evelyn' has in my life. Here is the alternative version of the poem. See if it does anything for you:

Friendship and Evelyn

When you are waking,
friendship fills the forcefield between two cups of coffee.
Evelyn sifts your dissolving dreams and welcomes the day.

When you are lonely,
friendship comes visiting and stays chatting.
Evelyn sits with you, far away.

When you are in the mountains,
friendship is beside you, hand in hand.
Evelyn sees your horizons and feels the air deep in your lungs.

When you are in trouble,
friendship helps you out.
Evelyn listens, enquires, explores.

When you are flush with creation,
friendship cheers and jumps for joy.
Evelyn stores the flush in your reserve.

When you worry about the state of the world,
friendship diverts your eyes to the silver linings.
Evelyn decamps to a cloudless world.

When you are partying,
friendship dances with you.
Evelyn smiles across the room.

When your world falls apart,
friendship hugs and comforts.
Evelyn forbids competition of fractured worlds.

When you are healing,
friendship plans and promises.
Evelyn makes space and patience.

And at the end of the day,
friendship notes a highlight and bids you goodnight.
Evelyn releases you from your cares.

Of course, when I first came up with this I wasn't sure that my friend would go along with all his hard work being co-opted in this way. So I wrote to him to test the water:

Hi Kit,

Great poem with consistently good verses.

I paused over the 'When you are flush with creation' verse, feeling that the third line was unclear. But on reflection it works OK.

I have made a version of the poem changing the word ‘Amity’ to ‘Evelyn’. This means that the reader doesn’t have to wonder so much about what the difference is between friendship and amity (though that is one of the nice things about your poem). It becomes a distinction between friendship in general and a special, specific, enigmatic, wise friend. Of course, Evelyn can be either a man's or a woman’s name, but I can’t pretend that’s what motivated me to try out the conceit!

It frees me to have my own go at the fifth verse:

When you are flush with creation,
friendship cheers and jumps for joy.
Evelyn brings the house down in drunken laughter.

When you are flush with creation,
friendship cheers and jumps for joy.
Evelyn tosses
Brideshead onto the fire.

When you are flush with creation,
friendship cheers and jumps for joy.
Evelyn doesn’t know when to stop, stop, stop.

In amity,


As expected, Kit was all right with having his work appropriated in this way. At least that's what I surmise by his reply:

Thanks, Duncan, for your fine engagement with the spirit of amity.

I love the way your ever-consistent voice has adapted the creativity verse. The differences in our versions reflect our own creative experience. Yours draws effortlessly on a full creative life lived with integrity and consistency, building and refining a confident creative voice. Mine reflects nervousness that occasional creations may bring a passing flush, but may never be sustained, if there isn’t a deep reserve to draw on, when needed.

I love, also, the way you can use Evelyn as a symbol of amity which may apply in general or to a specific person, like yourself. I was reading Bridge of Clay a few days ago, which is about 5 brothers in a rather over-dramatised family in Oz. About half way through the book, I’d begun wondering whether Clay was a synthesised symbolic character, whilst the others were individuals. At the end, I read the dust-jacket about the author and found he was one of four siblings, and that seemed to confirm my suspicions that Clay was an extra sibling in whom was vested all the best parts of the four real siblings. Maybe Evelyn is becoming something like that in your mind, although it’s more difficult for him/her to play that role, when there is such a larger than life real person who shares the name.


So that's OK. In fact it's good. Kit and John Wilson, both friends from college days, now appear repeatedly on this website. Evelyn was a loyal friend for decades after his Oxford time, it was one of his more endearing qualities.

Amity. Loyalty. And what else? That's what we're still investigating. Yes, I intend to dive back into the ocean of Evelyn again. If you thought you'd got to the end of this investigation, I'm sorry to disappoint. There is no end.