The week started terribly, consumed by thoughts of Abi, Ella, and Sally. Their absence echoing everywhere. Everything I say, everything I do.
But at some stage mid-week I started to feel better, lifted by the impending visit of three old friends. I met Bobby, Henry and Rawdon in Fresher’s Week at Edinburgh Uni. Henry was the cool one, a Londoner through and through, he and Roo going on to become one of the “it” couples of our year; Bobby was the bad arse, later christened Captain Britain by all those that loved him, and feared his legendary stamina; Rawdon the arty musical one, who stumbled away from the pub to audition for the Operatic Society. The Operawhat? And why? These are my first recollections of Rawdon. I remember Henry’s check shirt and cowboy boots from the King’s Road, Rawdon’s hippy yak jacket, and the reassuring solid familiarity of Bobby’s rugby shirts. We met in the Pear Tree, one of Edinburgh’s most fabled student pubs.
Through the years since there have been girlfriends and boyfriends (those will be mine), good flats and bad (Dundas Street still brings on a shudder), hay bales and holidays, point to points and clubbing, Buffalo Balls, 21sts, breakups and engagements, mud at Glastonbury and sunshine and rosé in Provence, fabulous weddings in far flung places, and eventually babies and parenthood, punctuated by manic 30ths and 40ths as we endeavor to hold on to our youth.
As the hours count down before their arrival tomorrow, I realise it is the longevity of our friendship that gives me strength. Strength and hope. Our friendship began soon after personal tragedy; we met Bobby at a time of acute grief. I recall Rawdon sitting with me on the floor of his flat in Scotland Street, hugging me soon after I’d heard of my parents’ separation. They were all at our wedding, Rawdon flying over from NZ. They were there for me when my mum died, and there for Henry when his father died more recently. Thoughts of the three of them coming all this way to share our pain, leaving their own families far behind, somehow lends an elongated perspective to life’s chequered journey, taking me out of the pain of today and giving me hope for tomorrow; assuring me that we’re all in this together. Come what may, wherever, whenever. Who knew that three silly blokes I met in a pub a quarter of a century ago could become such loyal, enduring friends.
I’m reminded of the Australian palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware’s book, in which, after years of bedside vigil, she records the most common regrets of the dying. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends ranks number four on her list. “Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down”, writes Warr. “Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved.” So, thank you Bobby, Henry, and Rawds for three decades of golden friendship: for all the times we’ve shared, many of them wild, all of them precious. Most of all thank you for the ludicrous effort involved in coming all the way from London to New Zealand just for the weekend. We cannot wait to see you.