I want you to imagine your Christmas card list. If you are typical, you will find on that list a handful of people whom you might describe as 'very close friends'. The kind of friends who, when you call them on the telephone, you don't need to say who you are; you just start talking. No introductions necessary. Close friends whom you confide in, turn to, rely on and trust.

Then there's the next 'tranche' of friends. You don't have quite the same close relationship but you get on very well, you see each other socially and are happy to be in their company. And there's more than a handful of them.

Then there are the people you know and like but don't see a lot of. You might know them but not know their children's ...

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