Saturday, 14 June 2008
Friend Reunited, a Hand of Pork and Alice Beer
The sun is shining, the bar-b-cues are being fired up down the cul-de-sac. I went into town and met friends, we discussed the price of a hand of pork which one amongst us was cradling like a small baby in her arms. It may seem mundane but amongst friends such small things are not boring, are not inconsequential. We can talk about other more cataclysmic things on both a global and personal level. We have shared much more personal things that touch each nerve around a table in a café but everyone should be so lucky as to have someone with whom they can discuss the price of a hand of pork and know this will be of interest. Perhaps you dear reader do not think such things are important enough to discuss in a blog but the price of a hand of pork is just an example of the small things which can be brought to friends without fear of feeling shallow or just talking for the sake of talking. There are all those conversations overheard in bars between male friends about the best route to Mansfield or the effective use of a full back, who set fire to the science teacher’s lab coat twenty years before, whether The Who was the best live band ever. This may be boring, it may be talking for the sake of having something to say but it also gives you the sense of being with others who will give you the time of day.
Friendship is a valuable thing, a truism, but sometimes you forget how much it means. I have people out there in the world not tied to me by blood who are connected to me by ties far stronger than sometimes blood can bind. I am also aware that there are friends who fit certain periods in our lives, who came and went and we both moved on, things change. What I was thinking about this morning was whether that petering out of a friendship is just what happens or just easier to deal with in those terms. We can’t divorce friends, we just stop seeing them. Of course a big bust up punctuates something but most friendships just dribble away into Christmas cards.
All this is leading up to a decision about a University reunion I have been asked to attend. Do I go? I am not in contact with anyone from those days. I am a different person in many ways from then. There are those I thought a pain in the butt and others I got along with really well. That entire ‘Friends Reunited’ thing is mostly driven by curiosity or perhaps morbid curiosity or strange unresolved issues with that girl or boy you fancied.
Is the acne ridden girl who couldn’t string two words together without blushing now a stunningly beautiful and confident woman? Is that boy who thought he was god’s gift to girls now an overweight, balding Dyna-rod man? There is also some need to show others you have survived whatever trauma school and university presented. Showing how far you have come since last they saw you dressed like a jumble sale at a hippy commune and smoking Consulate could be good but showing how much weight you have gained and that you live in a council house and work for less money than they in fact pay a Dyna-rod man (or person to be PC) is maybe bad.
But then there are the people you called friends back then, those you laughed and drank in pubs with, who borrowed your best dress and got wine on it but you forgave, who sat up and mainlined on pro-plus with you so you could get through revision together, those who knew to save you the orange fruit gums and understood that it wasn’t the time of the month that made you bite their head off sometimes. There are those that have dribbled way beyond annual Christmas cards into that great vat called lost and gone. What do you say to those at such reunions should they appear? Is it wise to re-kindle something that is a pale imitation of past friendship based mainly on a small snippet of shared past history or is it best to just let it all go? I have no idea and am still pondering on my motives for going, plain old nosiness is of course allowable, pleasure at knowing past friends are well and happy would be good but what if past friends are not well and happy, how would I deal with that? I think too much sometimes but at the very least I hope all of my past friends have someone to discuss a hand of pork with.
I am putting a link to a poem by Alice Beer. I met Alice on a creative writing course four years ago. She is a phenomenon. She is way past ninety (although she keeps her exact age a secret) and full of life, subtle and wry humour and that real wisdom (not the phoney kind) that comes with having lived so long and through so much. She got out of Vienna just before the Anshluss and she and her children were separated from her husband for some time during the course of the war as he remained there. I always recall her saying that she came to writing quite late in life “but at 75 or so you need to start something new!” When discussing the subtext of a poem on this course which seemed to imply a lot of anger, she waved her hand around, sat back and said in her small quiet voice which still holds a tinge of an accent, “Ah anger, anger, best to just let it go, let it go.” Scroll down the page to her poem called How to Learn to Ride a Bicycle. This considers succinctly the issues I am thinking about old lost friends (if lost and friend is not a contradiction in terms). Of course it is, like all good poems, about other things as well.
I also have to bear in mind that friends may have lost touch with me for a reason too. They have moved on too and they may still have deep seated issues about that incident with the budgie, the dinner plate and the Melanie album.