From the time that I could walk, he'd take me with him
To a bar called the Green Frog Cafe
And there were old men with beer guts and dominoes
Lyin' about their lives while they'd play
And I was just a kid and they all called me his sidekick . . .
I have recently been referred to as someone's "sidekick" when I was younger. I'm not sure whether the comment was designed to be pejorative or not but I did find it rather galling. The idea that I may not have had much of an identity of my own or that I was some wraith-like figure suggests our fleeting presence in each others lives.
Initially it made me feel like Guy Clark in Desperados Waiting for a Train but after a while it made me wonder about how we are perceived by others. I have over recent years got back in contact from characters from my past: fellow travellers that shared formative moments with me. Obviously all the people I am personally back in contact with are people I liked, respected or had good times with. I guess sometimes we are thrown together on our journeys with fellow travellers that we never want to see or hear from again whereas we lose contact with people we'd love to at least hear from. As an old romantic I like to hear about how these people are getting on and whether or not Life has been kind to them. Even if we only had very brief journeys together.
Some of the chaps I "knew" for a very short time, some I have known for the majority of my life in some ways. And the word "chaps" was deliberately chosen as the people I'm talking about tended to be school friends (Boy's Grammar) or because I've been happily married for thirty years, getting in contact with females somehow seems out of the question. Maybe it's just my English Reserve . Having said that, a very good female friend and I do occasionally converse via email - she's an artist still in Hertfordshire. It's just nice to know that another platonic friend survived and is getting on well.
A few years ago the phenomenon of Friends Reunited was difficult to avoid. I did register just to see if anyone from the past did want to get back in contact. A few did, most didn't. There was one who tried writing but it seems that my replies never got through so he gave up. Not too worried personally about that one. Another is still a good friend and we do occasionally meet up to put the World right and to drink from the Well at the World's End (he'll understand).
On another occasion, I noticed a very good friend's details there and thought, but I know his phone number, we just haven't spoken for a couple of years. So I phoned his number. A hesitant female voice at the end seemed shocked that I should ask for him by name.
Evidently he had died a few months earlier on an operating table for a fairly minor op. Nobody had thought to let me know. I was devastated. The news came the same week that a very good friend of mine committed suicide. He was four years older than me - a contemporary of my sister - he was at the same school but we became great friends in the aftermath of school. You know, real life where age doesn't really seem to matter. That wasn't a good week, I can assure you. The bitterness of not knowing about Hugh's death and not being told took a long time to recede. I was in his address book. Anyway . . .
So, many of us have survived in various ways. Some of us are successful, others have not always been lucky. But. But how do we actually perceive our friends? Why do we feel the need to get back in touch with characters from our past? For me it really is a matter of just wanting to know. I assume in many cases that I'll probably never meet some of them again. I have been able to meet some. One of these fellow travellers lives and works in the same institution that one of my daughter went to. At her graduation, I was able to pop in and meet up briefly - in fact we've met twice. Another one lives in France and yet another in Hong Kong - I'm not likely to see them again physically. I guess it doesn't matter - the internet has changed everything, I suppose.
But I wonder what their abiding memories of me are? I wonder what we think when first we decide to get back in contact? The funny incidents, drunken nights, embarrassing moments, the gigs, the sheer pleasure of their company? Each of the people I am back in contact with bring a warm glow of a time (mostly mis-) spent together.
My eldest daughter came back home for a few weeks over Christmas. She told me that my blogs tend to have a nostalgic feel to them. If that is the case I do apologise to all. I suppose now that the internet can accommodate everyone's memories through youTube and Facebook people can look back and find it all there. For most of us whose formative years were well before the advent of social notworking, we have to rely totally on our memories. If we can occasionally reminisce whilst keeping up with current happenings, that's not a bad thing. I don't actually think that I live in the past, or at least I hope I don't. But I guess I need to think about that carefully.
It's finally started to snow here in Suffolk. Perhaps I'll sit and stare at the logs burning and think this through. It's funny what can kick start a thought process.