Back to the Future....
Obviously the older you get the more there is to look back on. Last Wednesday we were driving home after a very pleasant afternoon at Castle Howard with some friends when my car phone rang. I am not very good with modern technology but after a lot of prompting I managed to answer. "You'll never guess who this is" boomed a strange voice. He was right - I hadn't a clue but it transpired it was an old school friend who I hadn't spoken to for nearly fifty years. We have had sporadic contact on Facebook for the last couple of years but that was all. There was a group of us - I was 'Mash', David Walker was 'Whacker' and Raymond Green was 'Raymondo'. The last member of our infamous quartet John Grayshon was called 'Grash' and it was he who called. It turned out he was in Oxford visiting another old school friend - Gary (Gaz) Hutchinson whom he wanted me to speak to. Gaz and I had grown up together. We lived in the same village, went to the same school, played football for the same teams and chased the same girls before going our separate ways in the early 70s.. It was good to hear his voice again and remarkably he didn't sound much different from all those years ago. However he is recovering from a stroke which has affected his memory amongst other things. He couldn't remember how old he is - the same age as me, a venerable 65 - but could remember clearly how we first met back in 1961. So can I. The story starts just before the end of my last term at the village junior school. At assembly one morning the headmaster asked for a show of hands of pupils not going on holiday that summer. Times were hard and there were a lot of hands including mine. Turns out that Morley Lions provided free holidays for underprivileged kids and I was one of the lucky three chosen. Why I don't know - whether we were the poorest or the best of a poor bunch to represent the school - but who cares? We were happy and set off in due course to Silverdales Camp near Ilkley. There we were joined by other boys from around the area including Gaz who had not yet moved to my village. We were given ex army palliasses and filled them with straw from the cowshed for our mattress. For all of us, I suspect, this was our first time away from home on our own but I don't recall any homesickness as we had a great time. We were allocated tents and well fed and looked after for a full glorious week. Cleanliness and hygiene were not too high on the menu and there was no 'health and safety' in those days so we climbed rocks and trees, waded in and jumped over becks and streams - in fact all the things that boys could ever wish for. My first memory of Gaz was on the bank of the river Wharfe. He pretended to shove another lad into the river but didn't release him and pulled him back laughing and shouting "Tell yer mother I saved you when you get home!". We all found the incident very amusing (except maybe for the 'rescued' boy!) and it has stuck with me ever since. I returned home with lots of memories, new friends and nits! Happy days and we have promised to keep in touch. Sadly Gaz is not the only one of my contemporaries to have suffered a stroke. Some have already passed away and a couple now live in sheltered accommodation including one who passes his time "shuffling bones in croaker's corner" as he so poetically described his daily dominoes at a local club. If you've got this far please don't feel too depressed - it's life and life only. OK I accept that looking back can be a bit of a two edged sword so it always good to look forward too. A friend of my father was once asked that if he could have anything he wished for tomorrow - what would it be? "To wake up" was his insightful reply. Life is certainly precious and though time does fly we should still strive to make the very best of each and every day. Grash now runs a pub in the town near where I was born and has invited us to go and stay there for a couple of days - now that is something to look forward to. Something else - one of my lovely granddaughters is 18 this week - I can hardly believe it. She is on the threshold of her adult life and I wish her every success with her dreams and aspirations. I look forward to watching her journey for a good few more years to come!
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Professional artist now semi retired and enjoying being eccentric!