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Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Born to be Wild

Yesterday three old friends met up to share a meal at "The Bell". One came by car - a brave man given how car unfriendly Walthamstow has become. Another travelled all the way from Roydon, on the borders of Herts and Essex, alighting at Tottenham Hale and taking a Uber free black cab to the home of the third member of the triumvirate.

We three have been friends for over 40 years: we shared a house in Belsize Park for three/four years until 1977 when I married and moved out with my first wife.

As we talked many images re-surfaced. Mornings on the tube at Belsize Park.  Buying cans of Fosters, imported from Australia, at the shop in Belsize Square. In Hampstead High Street being knocked over by a young woman in hot pants and a bra-less top. Talking to our landlord in the garden of the vicarage of St Peter's Belsize Park. Bar billiards in the Belsize Tavern: and a drunk girl friend upset having been dumped for another pub regular. A fantastic holiday in America in '76. Reprobates who became vicars and long forgotten friends we heard who died alone.

I look at myself now and try to see the younger me. It's impossible. I recall vaguely that I spent a huge amount of time in the pub, loads of time in friends bedsits listening to the sounds of the 70's. I also recall that I found working extremely difficult. I was told by a fellow drinker at the Tavern that I was repressed or was it depressed? I had no idea what he meant.

I see ghosts...that time, that place populated by the dead. Faces that I glimpse and emotions that  echo, oh so frustratingly, across an ocean of hours,days,months and years: unreachable.

Yesterday we three spent much time  bringing to mind our friends from the past. Old personalities whose sense were clawed out of our failing memories. Seeking to recall in those lost sunlight hills emotions now attenuated.

It's a seductive itch, a pleasing peeling back of the scab of memories.  Plunging into a seductive past, dragging up the stripped bones of memory I can, I'm convinced, meander through the frames of a lost past: stop and drink in the bitter sweet echoes of those distant days.

It's a dangerous dream. I'm 40 years on and in the here and now and my friends and I in the Bell in Walthamstow are not young blades - if we were ever that.

We have a future - curtailed I grant you. A future that if we are brave is worth so much more than any glorious, youthful past.

Who is that young man on the Honda 125. Was that me?

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