Some friends you value for their support, their positiveness, their backing you to the hilt even when you're in the wrong. This is not one of those friends. This person has the sharpest of eyes and the unflinching honesty of a dues-paid journalist. She is someone who absolutely speaks her mind, refers to herself as a harridan, although her true nature is warm and caring, and has a voice which, usually musical and pleasant, is - when she wants it to be - like the crack of a tiny whip, or so she would like to think.
On any given question of decor she will always, always call it like it is, tell you what you are doing wrong and why, and as if this is not irritating enough, she backs it up with a mass of knowledge about interior design and colour, an unerring feel for bringing out the best in a house, and the most excruciating good taste. When she tells you not to use 'Antique White' type gloss paint on old battered woodwork, because it will show the imperfections in the wood, you find out for yourself that she is right. If she suggests that the same off-white shade will look dirty next to a pure white wall, you step back, brush in hand, and have to agree. When she cracks that tiny whip, making you you throw out a rickety old kitchen table (which you'd kind of grown accustomed to) because it will introduce space and beauty into your life, you have to listen, and if you don't, well, you've only yourself to blame.
Her own Georgian house is a clean, minimalist marvel of restoration, space, peace and utility, brilliantly conceived, skilfully executed; to every room she will add the one sure, confident touch of colour or texture which makes it it both homelike and beautiful. (Estate agents have been known to visibly salivate when asked to sell her previous properties.) I should also say that when my friend's talents are engaged she is unfailingly supportive and helpful, sympathetic and generous; and that her own green-eyed beauty perfectly complements the environment she has created.
So it is my good friend, this small potent weather system in human form that I now honour here. It is her advice and mentoring that are behind my own experiments in decor, and needless to say any mistakes that remain are entirely my own.