I didn’t want to be there, and as my mother hastily departed out of the classroom, I cried and cried, I was just three years old, or even a little younger. As I sobbed inconsolably to make my point heard, the kind class teacher hugged me and cooed to me in loving tones trying to trick me into silence. I decided that it wouldn’t work, and so, knowing I was on to her, she sat me down on the mat and left me to cry.
That did the trick; I needed the spotlight, I have always been a real attention seeker. So, I sought distraction from a different source, and I didn’t have to look very far to find it. You! I was about to make my very first friend, and sixty years later, I can still picture you that day in my mind’s eye as it were yesterday.
You were significantly larger than most kids and stood out like an elephant in a penguin colony. With a mop of peroxide blonde hair of which Boris Johnson would be proud you were difficult to hide. As long as I’ve known you, you’ve always donned a genuinely unique style of hair fashion, boasting unkept abandonment. As if it was concealing a resident squirrel lodging within it.
Apart from your size and good nature, when I think of you, I always picture you with your explosion of blond hair. It was your calling card, and for most of your life, it looked precisely the same. Then we reached that cruel time in our late fifties, where our hair had either fallen out or became so thin it began to look as though it had just undergone a course of chemotherapy. It happened to us both at approximately the same time, leaving us few choices of style.
Probably because we attended the same school, we both adopted the streamlined broad parting look and kept our hair short and free from fleas.
Your three siblings and parents were warm and amiable folk and always very welcoming. They made me feel like one of your family in almost every way. When you ate, I got fed; also, yours was a sharing family.
I remember well the occasion your dad punished you with a smart smack around the ear, and I wasn’t forgotten either, and experience some of the same allowing me to empathise. Being an only child, this was as close as I came to experiencing siblings. As kids, we were almost killed on motorbikes, blown up by experimenting with the production of gunpowder, and in our teens nearly drove over a Welsh cliff on a camping site one moonless night.
As we matured, we saw less, and less of each other and meetings sometimes became months and even years apart, but that’s the thing about real friendships, they never die. Months and even years pass, and then just like two magnets, we eventually drift back together again. In more recent years our friendship has been exclusively by phone. For me, it has always been good to catch up and tell those same old stories that we’ve discussed and retold a so many times before.
Then the Coronavirus altered everything and changed the lives of some people forever, you being one of them. I was horrified to learn it decided to visit you and was most distressed at your admittance into intensive care at the hospital.
Imagine my relief when your wife encouraged me to call you as you are getting better. I felt so much happier because the cost of funeral flowers have become quite extortionate.
Dedicated to my oldest friend Paul