Burning Bridge

“I took time out to write to my old friend
I walked across that burning bridge
Mailed my letter off to Dallas
But her reply came from Anchorage, Alaska”

Michelle Shocked

A year ago my friends Ronan and Micky wanted to come home so that we could go out for dinner. We’ve known each other since primary school, aged 9-ish, and have been firm friends, best friends , since our teenage years and try to meet up at least once a year. Micky lives in Dublin and Ronan in London, so there’s always a bit of planning involved. Throw in 3 years of covid restrictions and some chemo stuff, and , well, it had been a bit longer than usual when we arranged to go for dinner in The Squealing Pig in Monaghan last November.

In the weeks leading up to it Ronan asked if I’d seen Milo lately, and when I said I had, he suggested asking him. I said I’d spoken to Muskie a number of times, so we asked him. This led to asking another Fintan, a Shane, a Sean, and a David.

“What about Cyril ?” Ronan asked.

“He lives in France !”

“You never know.”

And then we had a Cyril.

Muskie couldn’t make it in the end, so the 9 of us caught up, and had a great time.

We said we’d do it all again, and we set up a WhatsApp group, called ‘The Not Dead Yet Dinner’ and over the last 12 months as each of us bumped into someone else from that class of ’84, our band of 8 became a mini orchestra of 19.

We now had 2 Johns, 2 Seans, 2 Fintans, 3 Michaels, a Brendan, a Brian, a Cyril, a David, a Mark,  a Milo, a Ronan, a Shane, a Seamus, and me.

We settled on a date, last Saturday, three of the guys flew in from London, one from France, and the rest from all over the country.

We arranged to meet in The Pig at 7pm for dinner at 7.30pm.

I’d put the WhatsApp group together and I seemed to have been the focal point of connections, largely due to this blog, funnily enough. So I had a fair idea of what everyone would look like due to their photos. Most of the others hadn’t seen each other in 20 to 30 years, and we hadn’t all met like this since some day in June in 1984.

Some people were nervous about meeting others. It was a reunion of once teenage boys from an all-boys school, not volunteers for St.Vincent de Paul. So not everyone in the class had been especially nice to some others.

There were burning bridges to be crossed.

And they were crossed.

We had a pint or two downstairs before we made our way to the table, and in that transition, all fears seemed to pass. We sat randomly with each other and chatted to everyone each side and across from each other, placing each other in different classes with different teachers, and then quickly on to our own lives today. It may even have got philosophical at stages.

After the main course, and middle-aged male bladders occasioning gaps around the table, everyone shuffled around to catch up with others.

There was lots of laughter ,the odd heart to heart, and one or two apologies which were graciously given and accepted.

Fr.Martin, A priest that had taught us all those years ago knocked on my parents from door recently, he was at the wrong house, but Dad remembered him and introduced himself.

“Ahh, you’re Paul Bond’s father.”

Dad was surprised that he’d remembered, and then said that we were having the get together, and the priest rhymed off several of our names.

“That was a great class, a fine bunch of lads. We all knew it.”

And with that he went off, following Dad’s directions to the house he was actually looking for.

Fr. Martin’s recollection differed somewhat from what Fr.McDaid, later Bishop, had told my Mum many years ago.

“We had such high hopes for them. They had the best entrance exam results we’d seen in years, and their Inter Certs were excellent…but their Leaving Certs were such a disappointment.”

As we finished up for the evening phone numbers were exchanged , meetings arranged, friendships rekindled. There was just such a great feeling of love and support that evening.

I think Fr. Martin knew us better.

We may not have been the most academic class, but we were friends.

Still are.

Take a deep breath, pull on your big boy pants, walk across that burning bridge.

You, and the person on the other side , will be all the better for it.



P.S For teh class of ’84 , How About THat Coffee

Author: paul

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