“Time it was,
And what a time it was,
It was….
A time of innocence,
A time of confidences”

  • Paul Simon – ‘Old Friends’

It was a Thursday.

It was yesterday.

I’m on holidays. We had a nice family weekend at home, a weird, and wonderful few days in Belfast, and then home again. Slept deeply for the first time in forever.

Thursday started, as Thursdays are oft to do, oddly.

My Soulmate and I recorded a video message for my second best friend , Micky, and his best friend/soul mate, on the occasion of what should have been their wedding. That was weird.

Weirder still was trying to convey in a few moments what you wanted to say to your best friends that would consume a library. That your most precious moments were spent with them, that those moments were your most precious moments because they were there. That you remembered the moment , the actual earth shattering moment when your best friend, the guy that just knew you, the guy you couldn’t pretend in front of, yes that guy, he…I can’t sugar coat it…he stopped drinking Stag. He only drank Satzenbrau now…all of a sudden.

“Have you met that girl from Clones again ?” you asked, knowing he had, as he’d talked about it incessantly, and borrowed your paisley shirt into the bargain.

And then he stopped listening to Queen !

I’d sacrificed all of my good taste and better judgement to spend a week’s wages to go and see them in the RDS on their Radio GaGa tour, which in fairness was class, but , he’d also dragged me to Slane, in the pissing rain , to see the ‘It’s A Kind Of Magic’ tour, which breached the trade descriptions act…and…well I saw things that day that I never want to think or talk about ever again. Anyway, Queen was his thing , but now ?

Stevie Wonder ?!? Soul ?!?

And then …
Then he stopped wearing my paisley shirt, and wore black jumpers instead ! How dare he ! Yes I was always annoyed that he hadn’t given me that shirt back, but now he hadn’t given it back and was happy wearing something else.

And then the strangest thing of all happened.

We went for a drink in Clones on a Saturday night…by choice.
We swapped the heady environs of the Westenra’s video jukebox bar for…The Bursted Sofa…in fecking Clones !

And then it hit me.

I was no longer my best friend’s best friend. Helena was.

I thought I’d be cool about it , the way Micky was when I’d met my Soulmate. I wasn’t. I knew that I’d get over it eventually, I just didn’t think it would take 20 years or so…

And now we started Thursday recording a video message for them in the same room where our Christmas tree appears each year and the last presents opened under it are Micky & Helena’s when they visit , as they do every year, a couple of days after the big day. Best friends, godparents.

And then I had to take the youngest to see another old friend for an eye test.

I still remember the first time I ever met Milo. It was 1979, first class of the first day of first year in St.Macartan’s College, I was 12.

He tried to help me play the guitar at one point and then realizing that I was a hopeless case asked if I’d like to ‘manage’ the band he and Shane had. They were called ‘Rain’ and all of the songs that they played that weren’t Eagles covers were songs of either consummated or unrequited love by Shane. Now that I think about it they were all unrequited. Lorraine and Karen featured regularly. My management of the band seemed to involve carrying their guitar cases.

We went on school tours together to Russia. The good old Worker’s Paradise days. We tried to sell a digital watch and Levi’s to passing strangers, and almost got arrested. We shared a hotel with other foreign students and were absolutely terrified when a couple of American girls insisted on seeing the inside of our room. We offered to make them tea and they left very quickly when they realised that this wasn’t a euphemism for anything , we actually wanted to make them a cup of tea.

Milo, via Patricia, introduced me to my first girlfriend. Technically she was my second, but I never actually kissed the first one, God love her, but I did write to her an awful lot, and awfully. I realised how awful those letters were when her brother repeated a line or two from one of them on the bus , loudly. So Milo, via Patricia, introduced me to my first real girlfriend.

We were the only two from our year to decide to try the priesthood. I opted for the Holy Ghost Fathers, a proper missionary order and Milo chose the gentler diocesan route, which we ‘missionaries’ looked down on sympathetically , much the same as I imagine the Gardai or police look down at the boy scouts. Before we finished school most people knew that we were opting for that life. All of the girls I knew used to say that Milo joining the priesthood was ‘such a waste’, and then a few moments later realise that I was in their company and say, ‘but you really suit it Paul’.

We subsequently left our respective real and pretend priesthoods a few years later and married our Soul Mates. We see each other from time to time, he ended up with a real job, he’s our family optician. Within moments of spending any time with him we immediately fall into the same patter that we had , forty years ago.

Friends like that are rare, I’m blessed to have several.

I’m finishing this off now in the kitchen of a wee house in Dundrum, owned by my friend Robert. He’s a more recent friend, only known him for 15 years, but he’s as true a friend as I’ve ever had.
Maybe I’ll make a new one today ?



Author: paul

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