Thursday, February 28

people from way back

Unless you're in denial, you know we're all dying. Yet it's still shocking and unsettling when one of the people you've known all your life jumps to the front of the queue. Now I'm thinking about her several times a day, and fondly. That doesn't help her, but it probably helps me.

The best people are all from way back, and that's partly because they really did make better people back then. I know what you're thinking - it's really just an illusion because I've known these people so well and for so long. But then how do you explain the special old people you meet for first time?

These last few years have been a time of losing people, yet at the same time I've been finding people. Last month I had a really special time with someone I had never actually met before, even though I had seen him across a classroom when I was a boy. This week I kind of stumbled on someone, on YouTube, whom I had met only once, briefly and half a lifetime ago and in heightened circumstances. Now we're catching up in an email flurry.


Friday, February 15

odd couple story

Cellie and I have been together for nearly umpty years, yet we've always had separate bedrooms (with visiting rights).

Though we work in adjacent buildings, we've never seen each other's offices.

We take holidays together on the other side of the world, but we fly on different airlines, often on different days, and meet up in a hotel.

One day we could get married, but probably not.

This is how we met. On a rainy Saturday night, I had booked a seat at a large social dinner. I looked at the atrocious weather and the TV schedule, and almost decided to stay home.

As the last dinner guest to arrive, I took the one remaining seat, beside the woman nobody else wanted to sit beside, an overbearing person known for her unpleasant manner.

Though I hardly knew her, the first thing the woman said was "hey, I'm going to the toilet, look after this", and dumped her handbag in my lap.

My heart sank. Now I was stuck in this seat. Why hadn't I stayed home? But then I took my last chance to save the night, while she was away. I palmed off the bag on someone else, picked up my chair, and wandered from table to table. I made a place for myself at the end of another table, drawn there by the open smile of a lovely woman.

Not only did the evening immediately improve, so did my life. After 18 years with this woman, I'm so glad I didn't stay home that night, and that I didn't simply accept the worst seat at the dinner. And I'm grateful to the first woman for being so unpleasant.

Thursday, February 7

forgetting and remembering

Memory and unreality is everywhere at the moment. The school chum's old dear is going potty, and the poor soul has had to leave her lochside cottage for "observation" in hospital. Apparently she thinks she's at a party in Inverness.

I've just finished reading Julian Barnes' short novel Sense Of An Ending. Hugely enjoyable as well as profoundly appropriate to Albert's age group and above, since it revolves around forgetting and remembering. Indeed since my school chum last week mentioned the school "character" Tubby Stewart, I've had some forgotten school memories come flooding back, and not just about smoking after school with Tubby.

E.g. I've remembered being in Portsmouth with the naval cadets, getting dressed in mackintoshes (and little else), then being herded into a below-decks simulator to experience being sunk in warfare. You're locked in a huge steel chamber which fills slowly with water through a torpedo hole in the side. As the whole thing rocks and rolls and everyone sloshes from one end to the other, explosions outside mimic the arrival of further torpedoes or shells. If that was supposed to be character-building, I'm not sure it worked in my case. Tubby had more than his share of character, and he wasn't even in the navy cadets.

Friday, February 1

so that was christmas and what have you done?

Back at work now after summer holidays. Where did the time go? All I remember is the good bits, i.e. people and beauty (not usually combined). These were the people (and not a single deifheid among them):

We travelled with the visiting outlaws. A highlight was the chic Tasmanian restaurant toilet, where the urinal was a glass wall looking out onto the terrace. The one-way mirror lets you wee at the other diners. After the Australian trip they came back to New South Caledonia with us, and the male outlaw sportingly offered to help me with the DIY backlog. He made a lovely job of sanding the back door down to the bare wood, much better than I would have done.

Breaking the rule about business and pleasure, I had a good yarn (mostly listening) with a former client, an amusing guy with a wild past. He's an artist looking for new inspiration. When he told me the story of his brother riding a horse into an outback bar before being thrown out, I said "you've got to paint that!"

My old school chum passed through New South Caledonia, and after I got used again to his unique planning style, we had some good catch-ups - best of all was when I gatecrashed his hotel pool on the hottest day, and we had a long yap in the water and the sauna.

After he flew out, his brother arrived in town. Despite never having spoken to him in my life, and though the last time I saw him was at school, I introduced myself, and we met up for a delightful afternoon tea (we're the right demographic now). He and his partner are rehabilitated alcoholics, so I had the novel experience of being with people even soberer than me. The next part of their itinerary took them out on Sydney harbour with a boatload of Aussie drunks on Australia Day, surely the ultimate test of their sobriety.