Monday, 6 October 2008

Old Dogs


I'm not a great one for making friends; despite my natural charisma and sparkling wit I tend to stick with what (and who) I know. It's one of the few areas of my life where I'm basically conservative. This has little to do with my disability. If someone can't see past the wheelchair then a meaningful friendship is a non-starter. Building a friendship can be easy or it can be hard work, but either way it requires time and some kind of emotional investment. There are plenty of people I know and like and am more than happy to spend time with, but I know that as time passes and circumstances change we will drift apart and move on with our lives. A friend, to me, is some one with whom I'll maintain a relationship with whereever I am and whatever I'm doing. The friends I do make I tend to stick with - over decades in several cases.

On Saturday two of my oldest friends (in every sense of the word) came to visit. If you've followed this blog from the early days you'll have come across them before. I've known Paul and Darren for more than 40 years. (We all find this highly disturbing and so in public pretend to be mere acquaintances who have only recently been forced into each others company.) I first met Darren at infant school when we were both 4 ½ and were joined by Jonny come lately Paul when we were 8. They drove 130 miles from Bristol (on Saturday that is, not when they were children) to visit me and, truth be told, I was happy to see them.

We slip in to each others company like putting on comfy old slippers and pick up on conversations that have been running for years. Yesterday, in the inevitable fit of nostalgia, we logged on to Friends Reunited for a 'where are they now` session and peeked in on the lives of long ago classmates. “She married him?! Why? She could have had anyone. She could have had me!” Or “It says he's a chef, but I saw him flipping burgers in McDonalds.” “He runs a hugely successful Gay nightclub in London.” “Who?” “Him” “Never!” and so on. Fascinating though the flicking through past lives was, “He may have been the class Lothario back then, but he's clinically obese now,” we soon realised that none of us had any real interest in renewing acquaintance with these people from our shared history. Don't misunderstand, if we bumped in to them on the street (or on remand in one case), we would happily stop to chat, go for a drink, and exchange email addresses (or cell numbers). But to actively seek to renew a lasting friendship, we all agreed, seemed pointless. Why? Are we all so smug and self content that we can afford to cast adrift our past? Hardly. Frankly it all seems soooo long ago that our paths diverged, that so much water has past under the bridge, times wing-ed chariot has been grounded due to rust. Basically, we're too old.

Earlier we'd gone out for MAN food. Living with an (albeit a very tolerant) vegetarian means that steak is rarely on the menu so we made our way to the butchers and purchased MAN sized rump steak. But being men of a certain age (and conscious of weight and cholesterol) we also bought salad.

Through all the years we have known each other we have never really talked about my disability. In a way they've grown up with it along with me. It is only because I've started writing this blog, they say, that they have started to get an insight in to my situation. The subject hasn't been avoided, it's not the elephant in the room, rather it has just never been an issue. They are the only two, apart from my family, who can remember me running, playing football and jumping from the top of the school hall climbing frame. We used to walk to school together, play in a band together (me badly, but I owned the only amplifier) and as kids were cub scouts together. We shared an idyllic holiday on a farm one glorious teenage summer together, we got drunk together and we did things that if I ever caught my children doing I'd half kill them together. We established the foundation of a lifetime friendship. And now, thanks to something as simple and as technologically amazing as a blog, it's funny to think that even after all these years we can still learn about each other. Old dogs, new tricks anyone?

Talking of new tricks. . .

If you would care to glance at the top right of this page you will see a new feature. 'I Read This Blog'. Now, let's face it, you can hardly deny that you are reading this blog, can you? So please please click the 'I follow this blog' line and join in. I love writing this stuff but it would be great to know someone is reading it apart from Paul and Darren who are afraid not to because l might reveal something awful about them. Oh, and I swear on Darren's life that I will not pass on your details to anyone, spam you or laugh uncontrollably at your user-name. (Rock God? You wish.)