Monday, April 28, 2008

Timeslide

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...

29 comments:

The Poet Laura-eate said...

What a surreal lunchtime.

I've had a few similar episodes where my thoughts and emotional responses have certainly chimed in with yours!

I guess these things are sent to help us realise where we are now and how we feel about that.

Steve said...

Surreal indeed! It reminds me of the time I once found a wardrobe that opened out onto a snow covered forest full of animals who spoke BBC English and where I met four very annoying children all with plummy pre-war accents and an overly heightened sense of morality... I didn't hang about there for long I can tell you. Met a nice lady in a sled though...

Tristan said...

Ah, the old art foundation course! What happy memories I have of it! I always reckon that the ideal scenario would be to be 18, but with what I know now. There must have been a film or book of that set-up?

TimeWarden said...

An unusually melancholic post for you, Steve, not that there's anything wrong with that. If it's any consolation, I'm no longer in touch with any of my old school or university friends. But, then, it was a helluva long time ago! Your piece touches on the transient nature of friendships, which some would deny, but everything is always in flux.

One of the things you can be sure about, in life, is that nothing remains the same, however much we'd reassuringly like it to... unfortunately and fortunately! I don't know whether that's a good or bad thing. It's a bit like listening to music. It's good to listen to stuff you know inside out but that shouldn't stop you exploring new things too.

I've been accused of living in the past but, for me, those "Blue Remembered Hills" are, selectively, happy places to be. There's no point in me asking if you'd do anything differently 'cos I already know the answer, from all you've written in previous posts. Actually, I don't believe any of us would change anything as we're all exactly who we are and wouldn't be able even if we wanted to!

Steve said...

Hi Tris, a film or book about you being 18? Now there's a thought. I'm sure your experiences at 18 totally outstripped my own and would make a splendid action packed drama... my own experiences alas would make for a very boring documentary along the lines of Fred Dibnah only without Fred Dibnah, the steam train and the big chimneys. ;-)

TimeWarden, I do occasionally succumb to the odd Keatsian moment... usually when I'm strolling down memory lane in my lunch break. It is sad to realize that so few of our friendships last the duration of our lives but as you say, you soon learn that as with most things, people too come and go and move on. And, no I wouldn't do things differently though as Tris points out above, to have a bit more knowledge and self awareness during those late teens years would have been invaluable. I might not have done things differently but I might have done things better...!

Daisy said...

steve...this post caused me to think about my own life...and how i run into the woman who was my best friend at 18...i saw her a few weeks ago at the hospital...didn't even know she worked there...i had lost 200 pounds since the last time i had seen her (at her mother's funeral) and she is one of the only people around who actually recognized me...seems there are things we know about each other which go so much deeper than just the surface and we were able to know each other all over again in that short amount of time...we hugged...she said she would call...i know she won't...but it was nice for that moment to be there in that space and time with the girl who at one time in my life, meant so very much...

Steve said...

That's a lovely story Daisy and more lovely still that you can enjoy the moment and then let it go. I think my biggest fault is an inability to let go - things have to be wrenched rather painfully from out of my grip before I can accept they're gone. Much wiser to let things go with an easy, free heart methinks... maybe I ought to enjoy my encounters with Dave in the same way. Just enjoy them for what they are instead of feeling down remembering what they once were.

Reluctant Blogger said...

I liked this piece a lot. I suspect it got everyone who has read it thinking.

I had actually been thinking along similar lines anyway - about whether I should reclaim someone from my past, or at least forge a few links with them. But I will write about that in a post (rather than drone on in your comment box).

I often have that conversation with people (OK so they are usually drunk people!) about whether you would go back if you had the choice, in multiples of ten, or whether you would stay where you were - not being clear am I? I mean for me, I could go back to being 32, 22, 12 or 2 or stay at 42. I've done this loads of times and almost everyone, after much wistful and sentimental reflections and telling of anecdotes decides they would stay in the present. Me too! If I had to go back it would be to 12 - early enough to change a few things but not so young I'd have to put up with my mother for too much longer.

Friendships wax and wane. It may well be that when your children are older you and Dave will lurk out down the pub, patting your beer bellies and talking about the old times! Well, actually you'd have weak bladders by then so you'd spend most of the time hanging out in the Gents!

Great post!

Steve said...

Thank you for the kind comments, Gina... I must admit I felt unsure about this post as it is rather different to the stuff I usually churn out but the mood took me and it was written before I'd thought about it too much.

Not sure I fancy a dotage of hanging about in Gent's toilets but you're right: who knows what is round the corner? Friends go but they can also come back again. It's always weird looking back at a relationship from a position of perspective... a bit of self knowledge is always a valuable thing.

If I could go back I think I'd like to visit myself as a 22 year old... and give myself a shake and a kick up the backside! The worst thing about my twenties is the amount of time I wasted!

Daisy said...

ah but steve if you had not wasted time in your 20's would you now know that you were wasting time at your current age? would you be taking advantage of things around you now if you had not learned those lessons then? don't look back with regret...remember the fun and the time waste with a smile and know that was the time to waste, not now...now is the time to appreciate what you have and you can only do that because you know what it is like to waste...see it is all really just a large circle and we need each experience in life to make us whole...better then than now...

Steve said...

Thank you, Daisy, wise words indeed. That is a very good way of looking at it - all my goofing around was part of a steep learning curve! If only all of life's lessons could be as fun! ;-)

-eve- said...

Nice post. you had me reminiscing with you, holding my breath for fear that I should wake time, and break the spell. Well-writen ... I can feel the melancholy ;-)

Steve said...

Thank you Eve, that's immensely kind. I shall try and write something a little more upbeat for tomorrow though! ;-)

EmmaK said...

Very interesting post. I think a lot about the passing of time these days. I think the college times really are the best times, as you say, because time just seemed like an endlessly stretched elastic band and life was just about fun and play (well, I did study Art History it might have been different if it was physics). I'm afraid my twenties were awful in that way of lots of terrible relationships. Life these days is boring but in a good way.

David said...

Great post. It got me thinking about my knock about days when I was an 18 year old hell raiser. I feel so old when I go into stores to look at music and the clerks stare at me. I enjoyed your tale indeed

per.pri said...

Steve, honestly that post was so touching and thought-provoking on many levels.

But I agree with Daisy, no regrets ever. But if you do have them, in my opinion it is better to regret something you did do than something you didn't do. You wouldn't want to be left wondering 'what if' for the rest of your days.

Annie said...

Hiya Steve,
What lovely blog friends you have. I very much enjoyed reading your post and their comments.

I must confess last year I walked through Touchwood shopping centre in Solihull and felt a momentary envy of the young pretty girls walking past. However, I was pulled up short by the thought that these lovely young things will, God willing, be as old as me one day. They have still to get married, have kids, get divorced possibly, remarry etc and have the usual pain of in-laws, mortgages etc. As timewarden said, nothing in life remains the same.

It is good to visit our past, the place that has shaped our future.

Thanks a mil for sponsoring me on my RACE FOR LIFE, Steve.
Blog friends... Steve is brilliant!!

Rol said...

"Looking back at myself I was lumbered with a profound lack of direction and a hopeless lack of motivation. Not a great combo."

You just described 90% of 18 year olds - it's a wonder anybody ever makes anything of themselves...

The Sagittarian said...

Great post. You know, with my daughter now just 13 I seem to viewing my life in retrospect these days. Sometimes just the way she walks reminds me of something/one in my past. The clothes, thoughts, the way she is with her mates...its all deja vu! And really I wouldn't want to go back, but I do find it has an effect on how I am now. Oooh, deep.

Steve said...

Hi Emma, sometimes having life settle down into a calm routine can be pleasurable... provided it leaves you the scope to do the things you want. I always recommend to occasional bout of spontaneity though just to keep things interesting...!

Thanks David, I must admit, since the baby was born I've been more aware of the passing of time and also the fact that I am now, undeniably, the older generation... suddenly I'm not one of the young ones anymore! I'm middle aged! It's not as scary as I'd imagined it to be though...

Per.pri - thank you I'm glad you enjoyed it. I do try my best not to have any major regrets; at the end of the day there is little point to having them - you can't change anything. But occasionally I do feel the odd twinge of wistfulness... the odd "what if..." It soon passes though. I'm really happy with where I am at the moment and that's a great feeling.

Annie, thank you, you're very kind and though my photo doesn't show it, I'm blushing profusely. Though that could be beard rash...

Steve said...

Rol, you're undoubtedly right and my first thought after reading your comment was, "my God, so I was normal". If only I'd known that at the time I'd have been less hung-up and possibly less inept socially. But then again, maybe not...

Amanda, I know, the deepness scares me. I can't handle not being shallow - I may have to compose something lightweight and throw-away purely to get this blog back on track! ;-) As said above though, I do think having kids forces you into acts of retrospection... it's like reliving parts of your youth but with a slightly wiser head. I guess the hard part is standing back and not interfering - everyone has to make their own mistakes and make the journey of discovery for themselves. Aargh! It's happening again! Deepness!

The Sagittarian said...

Deep indeed, I found myself getting all sentimental about the chewing gum on heaters and the funny wee school diary with inanae-at-that-time sayings in them...eg "History has taught us man has learned nothing from history" and "A loafer always has the correct time". My daughter's diary these days very similar!
My favourite saying nowdays is "Never put off til tomorrow that which you can get someone else to do today". Bottoms up!

Inchy said...

This post is kinda spooky! I grew up being best mates with Finnie, the boy next door. We are the same age, we went to the same school, and it was inevitable that we'd be like brothers until we died. Of course life never really turns out like you imagine. Once we got into our 20's we started doing different things, different jobs, meeting different people. Now we only bump into each other once in a while, yet it drops straight back into the old fun & games and it never ever feels forced. I just know that if, for example, we turned up together on a stag night it'd be exactly like that weekend in Great Yarmouth when we were 19.
My mother phoned me on Sunday night to tell me he'd had a heart attack on the Friday, and was in hospital with 3 stents inserted into his . . . well I don't actually know what a stent is, so I dunno where they go. 37 years old, his birthday is 5 weeks and 2 days before mine. I'm going to see him on Saturday.

Steve said...

Very sorry to hear about Finnie, Inchy. I can imagine how you feel having had a similar experience before Christmas - I found out that an old school friend dropped dead of a heartache while out jogging. Same age as me, only 38, married, 2 kids. I still remember him as a happy go-lucky teenager... hard to realize that such things can happen to people at practically any age. Hope Finnie is making a good recovery.

Inchy said...

Cheers Steve.

Trubes said...

Hi Steve: This is my first visit to your site and I am enjoying reading it.
The story about your friend is thought provoking and I was almost tempted to suggest to you that perhaps you should find the time to meet up again.
However, I had a reunion with my best friend of my teens and twenties years and it was a big
disaster.
We had nothing in common and all I could only see a vain self centred boastful woman sitting before me, instead of the girl I shared all my dreams and aspirations with, for the future.
On reflection, she was always like that and was determined to 'marry well', which of course she did!
So, I think that sometimes it is better to hold on to your memories and don't try to re-enact the past.

Di.

Steve said...

Hi Trubes, many thanks for dropping by - it's much appreciated and I hope you'll return. I shall endeavour to pop over to your blog too! I have to say I'm amazed at the response that this post garnered as I didn't feel it was one of my best and isn't the usual subject matter that I cover... so food for thought for me, I guess. I can sympathise with your experience... meeting up with old friends is usually a disappointment all round and only rarely works out. I suspect you're right; the past cannot be recaptured... circumstances, contexts and personalities all change. I guess the only real way forward would be to begin again from scratch.

Flaming Nora said...

Crikey. I was filling up when I read that blog post. Very moving.

Steve said...

Feel free to wipe yer nose on me shoulder, Nora.