A chance encounter this lunchtime has set me off reminiscing...
In-between bouts of heavy rain I decided to kick-start the old MP3 player and take a mooch along one of the many river walks that perforate my home town of Leamington Spa. As luck would have it, this particular route took me by the college where I completed my art foundation course back in 1988 and where I met Dave who, for many years was my closest friend. My best friend, in fact.
Now Dave is still a good friend but life being life we now rarely see each other and hanging out never extends further these days than a rare 20 minute rushed conversation on the street corner, usually in the morning when he’s on the way to his job and I’m on my way to mine. He has a family, I have a family... What can I say? Our commitments and drives seemed to slowly separate over the years until the bond that once held us close as brothers disintegrated without either of us ever quite being aware of it.
It’s something that occasionally causes me a twinge of regret and pain but never for very long – there just isn’t room or time in my life at the moment to dwell on it. And I guess that says it all. As for Dave, well, I’m probably being unfair but I don’t think my absence from the great scheme of things particularly impinges on him at all... but that’s possibly the subject of another post.
Anyway, this lunchtime, as I wandered passed the college where Dave and I first met who should I run into? Dave Jr. Dave’s eldest son who bears an uncanny resemblance to his father when he was 18. It was odd to see him goofing around with his mates the same way Dave and I did exactly 20 years ago and in the same place. Just for a second I honestly wondered if I’d walked through a hole in time or life was inexplicably repeating itself in some kind of temporal ox-bow. Some weird loop serving no other purpose than to endlessly repeat itself.
For the briefest of moments I was 18 again with no other worries than the thought of bunking off from lessons for the afternoon, my head full of stupid ambitions and dreams which now, 20 years on, seem wasteful, ill conceived and ill chosen. Looking back at myself I was lumbered with a profound lack of direction and a hopeless lack of motivation. Not a great combo.
But when you’re 18 it’s fine. There’s plenty of time to do things, loads of time... too much time in fact. So much time you fritter it away on silly pranks and things that don’t really matter and things that are of no consequence.
And I envy Dave Jr that.
But despite the pleasurable regret, the slight sugary tinge of melancholy that is tinting my spectacles this afternoon I’m glad that I’m here and not back there. It’s good to have passed through that period and to be standing on a hillside looking back at it through a pair of wizened binoculars... because as someone clever once said: the past is a great place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there. Besides which the sexual desert that characterized my twenties is not something I’d ever care to revisit no matter how young it might make me appear.
Today then, for the first time ever, the small grey hairs in my beard and hair are most welcome. They’ve been hard won by trial and experience.
And when I was 18 I certainly would have envied myself that...