|Dead Ant. Myself & Mr Langridge front of picture.
Image courtesy of Paul Garner.
I went to a funeral this week. Sadly I have been to more funerals than sometimes seems fair in recent years. Most are poignant opportunities to remember someone who touched our lives however lightly. It wasn’t a family member. He was a dad of some old friends (brother and sister). Their dad had been a leader in a scout and guide marching band that I was once part of. He was a kind man that shared his kindness around with everyone he came into contact with. On hearing of his death, I felt a need to say goodbye to him and also to support my friends in a difficult time for them and their mum. Its a fairly normal thing to do and I am no different to anyone else in that sense. I am a sentimental person who cry’s at songs which touch me. I have been accused of being over sensitive in the past which is an accusation I am proud to admit to.
I moved away from my home town of Tonbridge over 25 years ago and very rarely go back. My life and immediate family is in Yorkshire although I have my sister, her five grown up children and their children living in Kent.
I met up with several old friends at the funeral many of whom I have not seen for over 10 years. It was a very unusual occurrence to be back in the company of such a gathering. We arranged to meet the following evening for a drink and a curry. I had a most enjoyable night in fine company. It generated a strange feeling however. It felt right to be in their company. It was instantly comfortable and warm. I was myself and not having to try. We talked openly and genuinely to each other all evening without fear of ridicule, cynicism or judgement. We laughed with and at each other.
I live a different life to many of my friends and we have all had stresses and problems to deal with. I have good friends here at home who I socialise with regularly. The shared past does however create a unique atmosphere amongst friendship groups. My 28 year old niece mentioned that she had bumped into an old school friend the other day; and it occurred to her that they had known each other for 15 years. I thought about this and replied that I was reunited with my oldest friend who I reckoned that we had known each other for 44 years!
Memories are sometimes, a source of comfort and laughter but can also be distressing and filled with sadness. Shared memories however are far more profound in making you feel belonging. You shared moments in time, you grew and became what you are with others. No one exists in isolation however hard they try. All of us are touched by others and we in turn impact on those around us. Ideas like Friends Reunited and Facebook promote that desire in one to re connect with your past, to reconnect with old social networks. They can be a great tool for re kindling old friendships but nothing replaces face to face contact. That is the clincher which brings you properly close to those who you care about. To be able to shake a hand, hug and embrace those who grew up with, is very special. They know how you became who you are now, because they were there. We didn’t know this at the time as we were young and impulsive. We were living life not observing it or commenting on it. This is not a huge nostalgia trip but an explanation of what makes those friendships special.
The video clip is ‘Old Friends’ by Simon and Garfunkel. It fits two criteria in relation to this post. Firstly it is a beautiful, poignant song that makes me cry; and secondly it reminds the listener of the simple pleasure in lasting friendships. I have returned a different person. I have been touched by the warmth and joy of meeting and sharing time with my old friends. I cannot promise to go around a changed man but I am a man who is glad to have travelled south this week.