Sorry I didn’t get back to the tale of our young reporter on his big adventure in Essex but a few things happened before I got round to it which made me think carefully about friendship, something I have talked about before.
Friendship is important.
We begin making friends when we are very young and we continue making them all our lives. Often they become lifetime friendships, such as my friendship with Roger Steele. We met as five-year-olds and continued that friendship until three years ago when he died.
He was a good friend and we were almost like brothers until I left Rhyl – but was I a good friend? I have begun to realise that the answer to that question is not an easy “Yes” or “No”.
Roger came to visit a couple of times when I lived in Basildon. When I moved back north we saw each other more often. When I moved to Australia, of course, he was unable to visit as often but we corresponded, occasionally, and certainly exchanged birthday and Christmas cards for a few years.
On my return to the UK he was one of the first people I visited and five years vanished in a flash over a few pints and a game of darts.
Then I moved again.
Then I went abroad again.
Then I was home again.
We met up and had a few pints and a game of darts.
Then I moved again and visits to North Wales were limited, and I moved even further (although I remained in the UK) and returned to Wales less and less. Yet when I did visit a knock on his door or a quick phone call and it was like old times.
Then for a few years it was back to Christmas cards. After a while return cards did not appear but then again it was possible he had not kept up with my changes of address – to be honest I cannot recall them all.
I did keep in touch with goings on in Rhyl via Facebook and noticed the name Steele crop up quite often. I sent a message to Tilly Steele and asked if she was related to Roger and it turned out she was his niece, daughter of Roger’s older brother David – guitarist at many a late night party in the 60s.
Tilly said she would be calling on Roger within the next few days and would say I was trying to get in touch.
She did get back to me but it was to tell me that Roger had died a few days earlier before she had a chance to visit him.
That left me wondering if he knew I was still his friend.
Certainly when I attended his funeral his family welcomed me, especially Roger’s older brother and sister David and Diane. I met again his niece Lynda Dykstra who I had last seen when she was still a schoolgirl.
What made me flinch inside was when they said how Roger often talked about me.
Since then I have been contacting other old friends via Facebook but again sometimes I have been too late. For instance I made contact with a lot of old friends from Rhyl Little Theatre – the Roberts’ sisters, Gwyneth, Val and Christine; Sian Roberts, daughter of one of the best woman journalists I have ever known, in fact one of the best journalists I have ever met – Ruby Roberts. Yet when I mentioned some of the plays I appeared in and people I had worked with it was to be told Glyn Banks, a fine actor who could play the porter in Macbeth as easily as Huck Finn in the Adventures of Tom Sawyer, had died last year.
I have been in touch with other colleagues from the world of journalism and I have often mentioned on here the best journalist and friend I have ever had – Peter Leaney.
Earlier this year I found his address and wrote to him but heard nothing.
Then in early May I was told by a journalist friend that Peter had died on May the first. That was one of the things that brought me to a halt with a jerk and has made me think what friendship really means.
There have been times I have been back in the north and could have called in on Peter, just as I could have called in on the Little Theatre or looked up other friends from Wales.
Everywhere I have been I have made new friends and then I have moved on and put those friendships in little boxes and tucked them away in the attic which is my memory. I have never forgotten them but I haven’t looked in those boxes very often.
I know some of those friends have shuffled off this mortal coil and memories are all that remain. I can only hope I can catch up with others before we all take that finale on the stage of life.
My failure to be a good friend to so many people who have been my friend is my fault, not theirs.
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
I still have the memories but I must try to be a better friend.