You need friends

When do we first make friends and is that first friend always a friend for life, or are later friends really better friends?

I have often spoken on Facebook and elsewhere about my lifelong friend Roger Steele.

Roger Steele as I always remember him, cool, casual and with a car in the background

Roger was not my first friend, however, although our friendship lasted the longest. No, my first friendship was made far away from Rhyl and though it only lasted a couple of years I have never forgotten it.

This was how I looked:

What a sweet little fellow I was.

Although I was born in Liverpool of a Welsh father and Liverpool-Welsh mother my first real memories began in a town called Chesham in Buckinghamshire.

The family, my father David, my mother Ivy (nee Lloyd), big brother Nigel and big sister Jacqueline, moved down there while I was still a toddler and Dad managed a chemist shop there.

My parents became good friends of our neighbours, the Carters, and my first memory of a playmate who was not part of the family was being in a garden having my photograph taken with a pretty blonde with a dazzling smile.

She must have been very special because I can still see that picture now as I looked up with adoring eyes at the girl holding my hand – Joy.

I was about three and Joy must have been about five but she never complained about this little chap who wanted to be with her all the time. She had no siblings and may well have looked on me as the little brother she never had.

We were still firm friends two years later in May 1955 when we packed up all our worldly goods and headed to Dad’s Welsh homeland as he prepared to run his own shop, DG Pierce MPS, in Water Street, Rhyl, on the North Wales coast.

This is when I discovered new forms of friendship.

Neighbours were not people who lived next door any more. Neighbours now were other businesses (we lived on the premises in a house which had once been a Victorian school).

To one side was a music shop, which was actually part of our premises making Mum and Dad landlords as well as shopkeepers. On the other side of us was a general goods shop mostly selling the sort of stuff necessary for holidaymakers – sunglasses, buckets and spades, inflatable toys etc. etc.

As it happened this was also now part of our property. Both shops were let on long leases.

Over the road most of the houses were B&Bs.

Where to find friends now?

At school of course.

Christ Church County Primary School, Crescent Rd Rhyl.

School was just a five-minute walk away and full of new experiences for a five-year-old looking for new friends.

Off to school to make friends.

As I have said the first friend I made there was another little boy named Roger. It was at this point I discovered that there is more than one type of school friend and in the beginning Roger was in the category of school-only friends.

Remember we were only five.

I lived five minutes walk away down Crescent Road. Roger lived in entirely the opposite direction, going down Crescent Road; taking another road to the bottom of the H bridge; up the bridge and across and down the other side; finally heading along Marsh Road to turn off to Frederick Street.

I haven’t travelled that route in many decades but I could still walk blindfold from my old house to Roger’s old house.

The other type of friend would become the fellow pupil who lived two minutes down the road on my way to school. We didn’t mix in the same groups at school but we would walk home together and sometimes I would stop off and play with this other friend in the back garden before I continued my walk home.

My parents were fine about this the second and subsequent times it happened but not the first time – mainly because I hadn’t mentioned I would be stopping off to play and as far as they were concerned I had just disappeared off the face of the earth.

Once that little matter was sorted I was permitted to stop off at the Jones house and play in the garden with Pam.

Oh, didn’t I say the schoolfriend I didn’t play with at school was a girl? At least this time my replacement for the Joy I had left behind was my own age.

As I said there are many different kinds of friends.

Tomorrow I will move on to the next stage of making friends.

See you soon.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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