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How (not) to ruin a good friendship

A recent falling out between famous octogenarians raises a few questions about making and keeping friends.

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Friends help us live our best lives

Friendship is a key element of life. Here are some of the benefits of having good friends:

  • They provide emotional support during tough times and help us navigate through life's challenges.

  • Spending time with friends can increase our sense of happiness and belonging.

  • Good friends believe in us and often see our potential even when we might not see it ourselves.

  • They can provide different perspectives and help us grow by challenging our views.

  • Through the ups and downs, friends challenge us, support our goals, and motivate us to be the best versions of ourselves.

It began, as so many disputes do these days, with a post on social media.

British comedian Eric Idle, 80 – who, along with John Cleese, Sir Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam, is one of the four surviving members of the Monty Python group – was musing on X, formerly Twitter, a few weeks ago.

When a follower suggested to Idle that he buy the X platform from billionaire Elon Musk, the comedian replied, “I don’t know why people always assume we’re loaded.”

He continued, “Python is a disaster. Spamalot [the stage musical based on the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail] made money 20 years ago. I have to work for my living. Not easy at this age.”

Idle went on to blame Holly Gilliam, the daughter of fellow Python Terry Gilliam and the manager of the troupe’s finances, for his situation.

“We own everything we ever made in Python and I never dreamed that at this age the income streams would tail off so disastrously,” he posted.

“But I guess if you put a Gilliam child in as your manager you should not be so surprised. One Gilliam is bad enough. Two can take out any company.”

Idle – who was supported on X by his own daughter Lily – also touched on his soured relationship with Cleese, saying it made him happy that they hadn’t seen each other for seven years.

A few days later, Cleese, 84, took to X to defend Holly Gilliam, saying, “I have worked with Holly for the last ten years, and I find her very efficient, clear-minded, hard-working, and pleasant to have dealings with.

“Michael Palin has asked me to make it clear that he shares this opinion. Terry Gilliam is also in agreement with this.”

Cleese also joked that the Pythons “always loathed and despised each other, but it’s only recently that the truth has begun to emerge”.

The Pythons, including the late Graham Chapman and Terry Jones, have developed a huge following around the world over the past six decades.

Together they made a television series in the late 1960s and early 1970s, followed by several feature films, including the hits Holy Grail and Life of Brian.

They also made sporadic stage appearances, culminating in a sold-out 10-performance final bow titled One Down, Five to Go at London’s huge O2 Arena in 2015.

Many fans have noted on social media and elsewhere that it’s a shame the Pythons no longer get along.

Others pointed out that it’s not often the case that people who worked together a long time ago are still friends or even in contact with each other.

And others mused more generally on the nature of friendships and fallings out.

Relationship experts are in no doubt that friendships are particularly important in old age. Studies have linked having friends to higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction.

According to writer Meg Sellg in Psychology Today, having a strong social network reduces the risk of early death by about 45%, while “social isolation and loneliness are linked to a higher risk of dementia, heart disease, depression, and other harms to mental and physical health”.

The takeaway from all this is that it’s possible to make good the mistakes of the past by “mending fences” with old friends.

But it’s also fine to move on, respectfully go your own way, and begin a new chapter.

It is possible to make new friends at any age. One way to do that is to join a club or organisation, be it one of National Seniors’ branches, or any of a number of groups that bring together like-minded people.

One thing is for sure: life’s too short to hold a grudge. As Idle himself has said, and sung, we should always look on the bright side of life. 


Brett Debritz

Brett Debritz

Communications Specialist, National Seniors Australia


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