The thing about sentimental journeys is that I actually don’t feel, when I undertake them, as if I’ve changed when I get there. I think of my son growing and changing, but he’s almost 27. But I actually feel pretty much the same as I did when I was 21. I don’t know whether I’m right, of course. The outer person has changed (evidence supplied below), but the inner one seems to be thinking the same way, listening to the same music, conscious of the same landscapes, aware of the same things. (Breaks into chorus of ‘Yesterday Once More’.)
So meeting a friend after 35 years, having often wondered what became of her, is an oddly rich experience, and also quite confusing. I’m older and fatter, but not much wiser. Lives intersect with other lives very briefly, and pursue their own solo careers; but actually, I seem to be carrying around the same psyche. My memory is a bit more shot than Anna, whom I met earlier this week (she could remember, a bit to her surprise, the number of the house in which I had my bed-sit, and even a degree of envy that I had a blow-heater while she had a single-bar electric fire). She was even able to describe the layout of the room, which I could only have done with greater difficulty and longer concentration.
Moving on is not something I’ve ever been good at. I walk about with one eye over my shoulder, and that means that the present consists of lamp-posts into which, metaphorically, I walk, and also, and now we are entering the territory of mixed metaphors, with the dust of all the years I can remember whipping up behind me, and leaving grit in the backward-looking eye. Logically, of course, I must have quite frequently passed within inches of people I’ve known and not realised it. In fact, I once went one better than that. There was – is – an actress called Su Elliot, who used to appear occasionally with a theatre group called Incubus (and if you’re a Coronation Street fan, she was the girlfriend of the bloke who left Ivy Tilsley, and had one foot, am I making this up, I’m not sure; and also Stick Insect in the televised ‘Adrian Mole’). I certainly talked to her in about 1980. I met her again in 1995; only then did I realise that we had both been in the same National Youth Theatre performance of Zigger Zagger in 1968, and had indeed gone to the same parties etc. etc. But the first time I met her again, I didn’t realise it. Over a quarter of a century had to go by before I spotted the connection.
Still, here we are: the first time I’ve ever met someone I haven’t seen for over 35 years, and, I would say, completely recognisable. As for me: I must lose weight. ‘You were skinny,’ said Anna. Damn it, I was.
You can’t get plastic surgery on the NHS, it seems.