I wanted a memorable reunion for number 42, it’s one of my favourite numbers.
I tried to call several people but things, like Christmas, got in the way. I stopped pushing and felt perhaps that 42 would happen in its own time.
And it did. I put out a post asking for a friend to volunteer and when James responded I knew that this was the one!
James first came into my life when he was about four and I was seven. We lived in neighbouring villages, he was the youngest of three boys and I was the youngest of three girls. We had very similar parents, sensible siblings, all upstanding members of the community but we weren’t about to let that stand in the way of our own rebelliousness.
When he picked up the phone he said he had been dreading this moment and I whooped with delight that his voice hadn’t changed a bit. He reminds me that we last spoke 23 years ago when I walked past him in Brisbane. I was on a very late gap year in Australia, he was working in construction and when we saw each other, we nodded and said ‘Ay up’ as if we were in Measham. Then we looked back and laughed, a lot. I remembered that I had a photo of that chance meeting and was pleased as I could only ever remember having evidence of our friendship on my dad’s cine films.
So there we are in Brisbane in the days before selfie sticks and here we are ( this will shock him) in 1986 in a charity race in Ashby de la Zouch. I found this photo as I was looking for the Brisbane shot. The race was called the Bog Roll and we had to wear fancy dress and push a toilet round a course around the town. We were dressed as fitness fanatics and James just joined in! The winners won with their toilet in a shopping trolley, such a good idea, so light!
James and I talked for 80 minutes about everything that mattered. I urge you all to pick up your landlines and ring up your childhood friends. You will talk about each other’s bikes, the paths and lay-bys near your homes, your unfathomable siblings, your friends in common, Sunday school, the laughs, your streaks and your perms, your mum and your dad, how you fell into what you’re doing and when you last went home. Do it! There will only ever be smiling.
James is still in Brisbane and his parents live not far away. I remember them well and their red setter too. I ask him whether he has any children, it’s hard to picture the twiggy, smirking, wide eyed and great fun boy from the village next door as a dad. He has four children and his daughter is called Annabel. I am shocked and flattered but then I remember that my son is James.