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Why life is worth celebrating

There’s a wild mix of emotions when a single week brings two lovely parties and news of a friend’s death

For me, this week has been more unusually crammed with what we at Psychologies call 'life stages'. These are the important things such as births, divorce, loss of job, serious illness — the biggies that seem to mark a change in our lives or our approach to it.

First the good stuff. I went to two fabulous parties, both of them women celebrating their fiftieth birthdays. While some people can’t bear the idea of drawing attention to getting any older, these two threw themselves into the festivities. Bev’s bash was in a private room at a West End nightclub complete with max-volume DJ and faces I hadn’t seen in the 20-odd years since we worked together. We squinted at each other (just to make sure), we reminisced over old times, we cupped our hands round our ears but still couldn’t quite make out what anyone was saying, and we danced like it was, er, quite a few years before 1999 actually.

Marie’s party was in an Irish pub in Mayfair, which was utterly authentic as she’s a Dublin girl originally. Always laughing, full of fun and feistiness, she draws people to her magnet-like, and the room was packed with people who loved her take on life. She was cool with the football on the TV in the corner, and she’d organised a folk duo to sing in the corner. Oh, and here’s a waiter with a delicious fish pie or sausage and mash to eat along with the Guiness or champagne. My head is still sore actually.

But in between these two great, life-affirming events came the hideous news of Elspeth Thompson’s suicide. A journalist who specialised in gardens, the environment and design, Elspeth (pictured) was a warm, wonderful, genuine woman whom I feel honoured to have known and sometimes worked with. Friends like me cannot understand what drove such a positive-seeming soul to such a final end. All I know is that I hold those dear to me even tighter since I heard the news. And the next life-stage marker in my calendar will be her funeral, beside the sea.