The other day someone asked me if I knew a good builder I could recommend. Builders, car mechanics, hairdressers and dentists belong to a specific set of people: you put trust in them although you may know nothing about them personally, and it doesn't matter if you like them socially or not.
They are not chosen to be your friend; but they are your confidant. They know that beauty is only skin deep and what things really look like under your bonnet. If you get a good one you trust their judgement implicitly: can I tear down that wall; can you fix my handbrake; will I suit red hair; should I get my teeth pulled out?
If you have a bad experience your faith is shaken so badly it may take years to repair. I have a friend who has a pathological fear of hairdressers (apparently there is an official term for this - weaslaphobia) after what she shudderingly refers to only as 'the perm incident'. I think it happened about 20 years ago, but she still doesn't like to talk about it.
So if you can get a friend to recommend one of these contemporary shamen it gives you an added confidence in their services. But what happens if you don't like them? Does that then reflect badly on the referee? Does this mean you no longer trust their judgment? How much responsibility should be attached to a recommendation?
The same is true of books, films and theatre. If someone whose opinion I value recommends something that I think is awful, do I think less of them? Do they do the same regarding me? My dad used to say film recommendations from my aunt were uniformly reliable because he was guaranteed to dislike anything she championed and vice-versa.
I used to work in a book shop and I still regularly review books, film and theatre for national media. I know that a critical review is just one person's opinion, but if it has influence then it has importance. I have a friend (Our Gracious Hostess) whose recommendations have never been wrong. My mum's are pretty solid too - with the glaring exception of Jane Austen. It's a lot to live up to, but they take their responsibilty as seriously as I do. Maybe we're reading too much into it, but these are referrals on which I know I can rely, which is comforting in these uncertain times.
And incidentally, I know a pretty fine lift engineer/ electrician, but I'm not sharing!