Here’s an irony for you:
When I was a kid, I moved around a lot. I moved schools, homes, locations and friends.
It was just a result of family changes and I didn’t have any control over it. I don’t resent it because I didn’t really know any different.
I actually had a pretty good childhood, filled with love, amazing family holidays and memories that will stay with me forever. One thing I do remember that stands out though is my first ever best friend. His name was Adrian and I was about seven years old, as was He. He was the first kid I ever remember being inseparable from. It was an odd meeting; I had just moved to a town called Little Lever, near Bolton and I knew no-one. He walked past my garden, where I was playing with my Captain Peg Leg action figure and he just said ‘Hiya, what you doing?’.
Pretty much from that time onwards we lived in each other’s pockets for about two years. We played in the fields near our houses, made dens, played ‘knock-door-run’ and generally had that fearless love of life you have as a kid.
Since then I continued to move around, again with family changes, for most of my early years and even into my late teens. In that time, I have had friends who have come and gone, some who have come back and whom I now intend to hold onto.
…do you remember that laugh you had when you were a little kid? That laugh, when no-one else got what you were laughing about but made you short of breath?
I have still continued to move around in my life, now because of family changes that are a result of decisions I was in control of. It has been very painful at times, a lot of times if I’m honest. I have had to make some hard decisions, leaving family behind, having to rebuild my younger kid’s lives, being apart from my older children and my parents and choosing between a lasting and deep love of a woman who is now my wife and everything and everyone I knew and loved.
Then, many years later, as I was approaching fifty, this chap came out of the left field and became part of my life. A broken arm, a trip to Ireland and a broken relationship brought me and this man into a situation contrived by our respective partners and we hardly knew each other. We spent a weekend touring the South of Ireland in a rented car, exploring the landscape, ourselves, our thoughts, each other’s belief systems and our respective understanding of the world.
What I found, as a middle-aged man was something I thought I would never find. I found someone who had spent the same forty-odd years on the same planet, in the same country, who had almost exactly the same view of the world and everything in it as me. I’m not talking about us watching the same movies, having the same love of science, the same sense of humour, the same love of power tools and engineering. I’m not even talking about us sharing an unspoken language of understanding, where our ideas are so similar we can’t tell who came up with them. I’m talking about a similarity in all things that when I think back on conversations we had, I can’t remember who said what because we are so alike and what one of us says, could be the thoughts of the other.
I have known this man for about four years now and we have shared a lot of ups and downs in each other’s lives. We have been geographically close and now not, had changes in our lives that have turned us upside down, and become so close that our lives are intertwined to the extent that I have unspent conversations because of his absence and I find myself having them in my head when he isn’t there.
So, soppy man-love aside, what is it that we get from each other that makes us like this?
Well, I can’t speak for him, but for me, it is that whatever we are doing or talking about or planning or reminiscing about, we always laugh. Laughter and playfulness are what he gives me. Sure, I’ve laughed in my life. I laugh with my wife, I laugh with my kids and my parents, I even laugh with people at work, but do you remember that laugh you had when you were a little kid? That laugh, when no-one else got what you were laughing about but made you short of breath? That laugh that was so intense you couldn’t say what you were laughing about because you were laughing so hard?
That’s what we have. Whether we are driving around Ireland in a car and trying not to fall in to the Atlantic, off the side of the road, whether we are camping in the forest, coming up with crazy inventions made of branches, whether we are mountain biking and spending more time in the dirt than on the bike, whether we are playing World of Warcraft, three hundred miles apart, we laugh.
Of course, I had that with my friends and best friends, growing up as a kid but I forgot about it. At some point, I put aside being a person who laughed with my best mate and became a man who didn’t have time to be childish anymore. I became serious and with that came the feeling that I had to be reliable at the expense of having fun.
It’s a lie.
As men, we try to be serious and reliable and dependable and steadfast and we betray that part of us that is the kid who just wanted to be stupid and laugh.
My message to you all, for what it is worth, is take your best mate, go to the woods, build a den, throw sticks at squirrels, make a campfire and cook some beans on it, fart and giggle about it, complain about your shit, but laugh. At the end of the day, laugh, because life is too short to not laugh.
So, you are probably asking, “where’s the irony in that?”
Well, the man who is now my best friend and I know will be for the rest of my life, the man who brought me back my laugh is called Adrian.