By arrangement I met a very old friend at Victoria Station. I had not seen him for a few years. When I got engaged 13 years ago my wife-to-be asked to meet my friends. She said something very thoughtful after the handful of survivors had been paraded before her. She said, “Interestingly, none of your friends seem to like you.”
There is a kind of truth in this. As if disdain was the thing that unified all of those who still clung to the idea that I meant something in their lives. They reluctantly accepted me, seemingly unhappy with my values and my progress through life.
Yet I was pleased at her verdict. I was pleased that I had got as far as I had in life without taking on the burden of having to maintain too many friendships, and the energies that go into such. That the handful who I had cultivated and kept in with were worth the effort. And that more than anything they were relics of distant and at times long-gone histories.
Our times together were often acerbic, at times plain nasty. And in sharp contrast especially to what seemed to me to be American TV friendship, I suppose best shown in the series Friends itself.
God did they work on their friendships!Their genuine nicenesses though were mostly inspiring, pattern-forming, and comic. I watched Friends way after the bonds of the TV programme had fallen apart, but they still seemed freshly entertaining.
But the chap I was meeting last week at Victoria was the oldest friend of all. I was 15 when I met him, in an interlude between him leaving a correctional institution and me going into one. The World’s End, Chelsea, what was then known as the poor end of The King’s Road, was the scene of our meeting.