So some of the college generation before me are planning a reunion and it made me think about all the people I knew over the years and lost touch with.
What made me think of even it even more though was looking at an article and recognising a photo of a woman as someone I used to know, now 30 odd years older and on the other side of the world. A quick search said yes my instinct was right: married name, birthday correct. I dropped a line to both the lady and her husband too, out of politeness — no one wants strangers stalking their family. Will they see my Facebook message and respond?
I fear not. I am not hard to find, and hundreds of my uni friends have reconnected over the years. They may have forgotten I existed and in this case I possibly horribly offended them – I am famously tactless. If they wanted to hear from me they could have messaged.
It’s odd isn’t it the people we miss? One was Rob Mosse, a Jewish chap who I only knew for a couple of weeks before he dropped out of the College of St. Paul and St. Mary. Rob was a lovely chap and I am sorry I never said goodbye — he just left, homesick I expect.
Then another really close friend, Mark Leach. He has a cool wiccan girlfriend Vanessa Lowe-Shipley who had an even cooler mother. Mark was half Dutch, fought with the Christian Union as much as I did and was a bit of a rebel, but his girlfriend transferred to St. Mary’s Twickenham and we drifted apart. Also I brought more and more friends to Cheltenham from Suffolk, and maybe Mark did not fit in with the Nameless Anarchist Horde? Shame because he was a top bloke.
Then there was Russell Haynes, a Maccam who was always kind to me and who I had some great times with. I visited him up in Sunderland, and yet I never made it as far as to see Steve Wood in Berwick. Russell left college at the end of my first year, and split up with his girlfriend Lou soon after.
Any list of people I miss should really start with Julia and Louise Thompson, the Thompson Twins from Broxbourne, victims of my youthful infatuation and sometimes daft sense of humour. Genuinely lovely girls I probably annoyed Julia when I visited her in Edinburgh after college, and have spent nearly thirty years regretting it. I stayed in touch with their lovely parents for years but when the Twins stopped writing I eventually broke off correspondence.
Same with my exes: most parents, with a couple of honourable exceptions, did not hate me. You can’t stay friends with your ex-girlfriends parents after breaking up though. I know where all my exes are and most are on my Facebook, but I stay out of their lives as much as possible. One clearly wants nothing to do with me and dropped me long ago, and one is a bit annoyed at me most of the time I think, but I feel nothing but affection for them.
I won’t name names but it is a shame cos I still regard one ex as among my closest friends. “It’s so funny, how we don’t talk anymore” as Cliff Richard sang.
Let’s move on to the Cheltenham and Gloucester College of H.E. What happened to Kevin Ruane and Julie? More friends I have not heard from in years. Matthew Jones of Bishop’s Castle — a truly lovely guy who used to hang out with Tim Parker and Phil Hampton. Catherine and Jonathan, the sweet blondes.
And then there is Bob Buttery, though I rarely called him that. That skinny little redheaded guy was one of the best; I was incredibly fond of him, but he left college and that was it. Did I do something terrible? Were my heavy handed jokes scarring him? Bob, where are you?
Next up Phil Bedding, a role-playing gamer and great guy from Peterborough. I knew not just Phil but his mates from back home, Martin and Duncan. Phil dropped out from uni and that was it. I’d love to game with him again.
And so many more. The girls who detested me and thought I was a real weirdo – pretty much everyone actually! — I now regard with immense affection. The Christian Union were my people, and I would love to know what happened to them, friends and enemies. I kept my faith, and still hold it strongly as some know — but I fear I forgotten by all those Christians I sang “Shine Jesus Shine” with.
The girls change names and I am too lazy to stalk. When I found one person accidentally recently I commented to DC “Out of all the search results, in all the Googles, she had to show up in mine.” I felt really bad, as if prying, but I had to know if I was right. It’s a miracle if I recognise anyone — being prosopagnosic…
And then Christopher Dillon: he was like a son to me. He managed a Co-Op, wrote thrillers and did his dissertation on Mother Theresa — last I heard he was an English teacher. Like so many of the Spslings though, who really were like my kids, he left and never looked back.
And the mature students – Joyce Dowds, Hazel, Armstrong Leeworthy. How I would like to show them that I too matured, survived and grew up.
Anyway I hope all these people are alive and having amazing content and happy lives: but why do they matter so much, when I can barely keep up with everyone I do know? “Christian, you can’t save everyone” said dad. Maybe he was right, but it is not about them.
I need people: all the people. I can’t say why, but as Bowie sang in Five Years…
And all the fat, skinny people
And all the tall, short people
And all the nobody people
And all the somebody people
I never thought I’d need so many people…
No matter how much you may fear it, resent it, or marvel at it, never think you don’t matter. I spend hours lying here remembering people and places that are as a moments sunlight fading on the grass. Perhaps our yesterday’s are someone else’s tomorrow: countless heroes live in my mind, frozen in youth as if they had fallen then.
I’m not hard to find: but if you don’t call, I guess that is how it must be. Memory is a prison for us all.