I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer's dream, in the chill of a wintry light
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face
I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there's someone there, other times it's only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand .................... Bob Dylan
For me, the last few weeks have been nervously exciting in that I have made contact with an old and one-time best friend from school and early adult times. Unfortunately around forty years ago, we fell out through something that was totally my fault and although we live only a few miles apart on this small island, our paths have somehow never crossed again, seems hard to believe!
I recently came across his comments on a local Facebook page and as we began to agree answers to various postings by others it was clear that not all was lost from our old friendship. Now we have turned to regular Private Messages as a way of exploring where we are going with the re-emergence of a kind of friendship and the dissecting of forty years through the sands of time. Gradually we are describing the hills and valleys of our different lives and careers and in my case, clearly an overwhelming number of valleys, gawd, you don't realise until you start to describe it in chronological order, what a shambles one's life has been at times. There have been a number of "do you remember when's" and "have you seen so and so in recent years" and in my case the scrabbling through my diaries from those long ago times. For me it has been an education in how valuable the retention of old friends should be and I am hoping that the mending of something that should never of been broken in the first place, can take place. I know that my friend doesn't see absolute redemption as the likely outcome but at least we are back as some kind of friends and a good way down the road, to how it used to be.
One of the outcomes of this recent revival of an old friendship, was the sharing of a document that I began writing many years ago, about the day to day events in the lives of all of our circle of friends during 1965-67. Re-reading it was stirring for me and I hope that it had the same effect on my friend. I had entitled the document "In the beginning" and the very first paragraph explained why:-
"In the beginning there were two thirteen year old girls walking along Rose Street on their way home from school and as we drove by on our way home from work that summer's afternoon in 1965, there was something about one of them that made me look again. It was her hair, it was long and it tumbled in waves and curls down onto her young shoulders in the most wonderful deep, gingery-red colour that flashed gold in the sun. Other than that she was just a skinny young schoolgirl and it was only a moment an then the two girls were gone - I guess that in that moment, although I wasn't aware of it at the time, my dice were thrown but the gamble had still to be made".
Another whole year later and my life had changed dramatically. I was no longer the unknowing and immature person of 1965, I had become one of a group of denim clad and long-haired people, who when not working, hung around the town in their spare time, playing guitars, sleeping rough and living a hedonistic life. We had hitch-hiked to London and back a few times and I had had a couple of girlfriends but by the June of that year I had just quit a job that I had good prospects in. Three of us had decided that we would go hitch-hiking around the south for the rest of the summer, guitars, sleeping bags and where-ever took our fancy. It was a hot afternoon and we were sitting in a park next to the beach discussing our departure in a couple of days time. Suddenly, amid the swimmers and others that sat against the nearby sea wall, a flash of colour caught my eye, it was the red-haired schoolgirl again! I was captivated, was it just coincidence, was it fate, but I had to speak to her and went over. I needed a reason and so asked if I could borrow her towel to dry myself after a swim, she agreed and I swam in my jeans. After, as the jeans dried on me, we chatted, she was just past her fourteenth birthday and I was approaching my nineteenth, a five year gap but we seemed surprisingly evens in age. Later, I walked her home and for the next two days we hung out together, I liked her, suddenly the great hitch-hiking adventure to come was losing it's appeal.
But happen it did, with great farewells the three of us set off down the road. We went to London and spent time sleeping rough around there and then decided to go down to Brighton. It was a long journey, a lot of walking and no lifts for all of the way, we arrived weary and dirty and slept on the beach. Five days gone and we weren't enjoying it and so we travelled back, I don't know about the other two but I was missing the young girl with the flaming hair. She and I quickly re-connected, we stayed together and gradually my life began to change again and our time was spent together. Four years later, in 1970, we married, as did my friend above, the flame haired girl and I were happy, borrowing her towel seemed a lifetime away. In 1976 we split up and eventually divorced, the young girl with the red hair had grown up, I unfortunately, hadn't.