Old Friends

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.


2 thoughts on “Old Friends

  1. You were brave to move away. Me and Pip considered it many times, but never had the balls. Born and bred in west Kent, I once wrote in a diary ( as my plane circled a patchwork of distinctly Englsih fields – after 6 months away backpacking) that this little corner of England would always be home. But what I've come to realise that its the unique deep rooted and comforting friendships that stopped me. I reckoned 20 of the same people at my 40th birthday, had also been at my 16th. The only hole was the precious few of you that had moved. Unique and precious these friendshipsbare , they are also has bacome a tie… a lovely one, but a tie nontheless, to an area that holds me for no other reason. Perhaps good reason many envious would righttly say. Today was a stroll to the fire place And steak sandwich of The Plough …. now how many times have we done that… with the Rachers and Garlands. How precious simple moments like that are not lost on me, but what your visit, and those of other braver souls that made 'the jump' shows me that, that despite the miles …the growing up we did together is stronger than time and space, and how comfortably and effortlessly we can fall together and talk bollocks over a pint, as if picking up a conversations from last week?Miles cannot tear that apart, and the feelings you so beautifully describe are simple proof. Growing up, through the scrapes, laughs, tears and loves that our youthful development took us together is a friendship that is always there… to be picked up and exploited when needed or fancied…. whatever the time and space between. Come back down soon. Always a bed on offer. And we'll also make the effort to head north or Watford to the world you were so brave to make for yourself in addition. Friend.

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