I MET Betty when I was out for a run.

Or, more accurately, I met Betty when I was wearing running clothes, moving at mildly above walking pace and desperate for any excuse for a sit-down.

Betty was on a park bench admiring some baby ducks. I, too, like to admire baby ducks, particularly when I am wearing running clothes, moving at mildly above walking pace and am desperate for any excuse to stop.

“Lovely, aren’t they?” I said to Betty, grabbing this excuse to stop with both lazy hands. We did some mutual duckling admiring and she offered me a Rich Tea.

Gladly accepting, I sat down. We chatted about the wildlife in the park, and about how, as little girls, her dad would take Betty and her sister twitching, giving her a life-long love of birds.

The next Sunday, Betty was there again, and so I joined her on the bench and we chatted a bit more.

She told me how she loves big old houses and, when out and about and spying a big old house, she’ll try the door. If the door’s open, she’ll go inside for an explore around. Should she be caught, Betty pulls the little old lady card and is usually offered a lift home. Glorious.

By week three we were on hugging terms.

Pre-pandemic, I had friends like this around the city. Is there a name for them? Peripheral friends? Accidental acquaintances? People who tie you to a community and make you feel part of a place but who you might not keep up with socially.

During the Covid-19 crisis there has been ample talk about friendship – missing in-person catch-ups with friends; how now is the time to axe toxic friendships; about how crisis shows us who really means the most to us.

What about these casual chums? These fringe ties are important but are the ones most likely to have been lost over the past year.

Working from home has meant that I miss out on the friendly faces who would normally brighten my day.

The fellow cyclists whose names I don’t know but who are as familiar as the cycle route, who chat at traffic lights and form a community of daily bike commuters.

Having been a barista for the best part of a decade, I take a good deal of pleasure in being a regular customer.

I miss the folk who make my daily coffee, who listen to my work moans and share their grumbles with me. I left my coffee shop job in 2007 but there are still regular customers I see around Glasgow city centre who stop to chat.

On Sunday evening I bumped into one – Double Espresso Guy – on Byres Road, and we had a marvellous catch-up. It was delightful, but made me miss my own coffee buddies even more.

Cycling home from work, there used to be a chap I would bump into coming out of a lane beside the office and we’d pause for a natter. Where is he now? How was his pandemic?

Some of the best chat of the week would come from Bertie, a gentleman who would make sure the businesses at the top of Renfield Street weren’t binning anything that could be of use to him.

He had stories aplenty and was never shy of telling them.

There were so many of these connections, yet the pandemic severed most of these connections and working from home limits the chance to start them up again.

New ones have formed. The postman and I are on first name terms now.

Well, he calls me Lady Catriona and mock curtsies when he sees me, but I’ll take what I can get.

I know the names of enough dogs in Queen’s Park to form a pack and my new regular coffee shop is delicious, but it’s takeaway only and there’s no chance to chat.

Friendship is a hardworking word – it covers all manner of ties.

It should extend to these relationships. The sometimes nameless but always familiar links that turn a city into a village and that village into a community.