Here is a story of friendship. Oh, scrub that. I don’t have any.
As a young boy, I had a few select friends, probably less than most; my academic prowess and lack of any sporting ability at school kept me mostly alone. From an early age I mostly played with girls. Lorraine and Sharon, the neighbour’s kids, and Wendy and Corrine down the street. Caroline across the road.
I had one “boyfriend”, who lived up the street, a strange lad at times but a nice lad, but awfully bullied by his eldest brother and father. As a grown up, he seriously went off the rails trying to live up to his brother’s achievements, while his father left no doubt who was the favourite.
Despite this we remained friends through school until he left to join the army, not the greatest career choice I fear. He courted and eventually married a girl from the east end of London, a quirky cute lass, of which I could tell many stories. Unfortunately he didn’t know how to treat her right, he was slipping into the ways of his father and becoming a bit of a bully himself. She didn’t stay on the scene long and he seems to totally lose the plot. We lost touch soon after. Well, preferred not to be in touch is probably closer.
As I went through the years at Python Hill I found a couple of new friends in the village (it helped when you were allowed to wander further afield from your own street) – Alan Wallace, now a successful business owner and fellow cruiser, Lloyd Rayner, and Neil Bramwell, who I have lost touch with. And one or two others.
Once I had arrived at Joseph Whitaker, the “friend pool” opened up somewhat and it was an opportunity to make some new acquaintances from the surrounding villages. The world suddenly seemed to get a little bigger!
I had a few good friends whom I spent a lot of time with – Robert Brown, Kevin Freeman, Stuart Price, Mark Jolley, Jeffrey Jones, Ian “Stevo” Stevenson, who shared my passion for photography and amateur fishing at our local lake. I still manage to stay in touch with some of these guys.
My mum had a lifelong friend called Norma, and we spent many a hour at her house on Cooper’s Rise, where I would play with their daughter Gillian. She had contracted polio as a baby and it caused her all sorts of problems, but she was a great little girl and she has grown into a beautiful woman.
Through the power of Facebook, I have managed to re-engage with many of those treasured friends.
I can feel a reunion coming on! I think now would be a good time.
Sadly, many of my school friends lost touch as they went to University or moved away, and were replaced with work colleagues.
With the exception of one couple, who not only became huge friends but godparents too, we have not been able to sustain a longstanding friendship and just have many good acquaintances. Even the couple mentioned eventually went their own way after some disagreement which I still don’t totally understand. Nothing lasts forever it seems.
Some of our neighbours have become good and reliable friends, and most recently we met a lovely couple while attending my degree course who we have thoroughly gelled with and see each other periodically. And for once I don’t feel like I’m doing all the work to maintain/retain that friendship.
Overseas, I believe we have forged some special relationships with people I have met through work, and I continue to stay in touch with despite the work side of things subsiding.
But compared to many, I feel a bit short on friends, the sort of friends that call you up and say “fancy a drink tonight?” or “Come over for dinner”.
For many years I believe my “friends” remained so only because of the effort I put into to keeping them in that position. I lost count of the number of garden parties I held but never received invitations in return. And eventually as an experiment I stopped calling them regularly to arrange nights out – and sadly, (as i had slowly come to realise) it proved to be a one way experience. We are still waiting for the call from many saying “It’s ages since we’ve seen you – we need to meet up”.
But every cloud has a silver lining, and your mum and I have realised that we are the only friends we need. I sometimes get depressed that she has friends that will call her up to go out, or will come round for tea and biscuits, while I have absolutely nobody who will do that. I would never begrudge her those contacts, but it would be nice to have someone myself to interact with.
Most recently I have re-kindled a friendship with a colleague in the Czech Republic, a great character entering into his sixties, who shares a passion for story telling and has a history that I wish I had time to document for posterity. It’s a shame we do not live closer, but we now write regularly by email which is a nice thing to keep up.
But for real life in the flesh friends? Ah well, it’s not to be. At least I can pretend that I’m popular with my Facebook “friends”…