‘You have to set time aside for friendship’: the radical power of hanging out

From sharing a cuppa to lazing in the park, is the key to happiness doing everyday activities with pals?

Some of my fondest memories of friends should, by rights, be entirely forgettable. There was that time we took our books to the park and dozed. The time we sat by the sea drinking coffee, watching the waves. The time we assembled my flatpack furniture (well – I watched), ordered a pizza and watched TV.

Fifteen years ago, these open-ended hangs were effortless and my social life flowed with only the lightest steer. Fast-forward to now, and – whether it’s the difference between being in my 30s versus my 20s, or 2023 versus 2013, or a pile-up of both – often the best I can manage is a quick drink after work in three weeks’ time. No one, myself included, is ever free to just hang out. “I’d love to,” I say, sincerely – but there is always a “but”.

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