New Friend rang me up. He had a reason. He wanted to make sure he didn’t miss my parents who were due to see us and whom he was interested in meeting. “I was wondering,” he said after a while, “whether you were still friendly with me.” I asked him to remember what I had said to him when we last met. He obviously didn’t have too much confidence in my words. He will have to find out for himself then.
Later I sent my daughter round to him with plants from our garden. He said to her: “Is your Mum cross with me? She hasn’t telephoned for quite a while.”
I went to see him a few days after, before he was due to join us for lunch.
He was relieved to find I was still the same person. Same smile – he could hardly believe it. Same ways, same manners – he shook his head, incredulous. Same ease as well – asking him for a cup of tea. Why should she want to see me?? He didn’t say this, but I could sense the question…Anyway “nice to see you” and what should he wear when he came to lunch? Would my father wear a tie? And what sort of a shirt? He was wearing a yellow casual shirt which suited him, and I suggested he wore that.
He didn’t. He turned up in a blue shirt and tie. After a while when the conversation with my parents had become a bit easier, he took his tie off, because my father wasn’t wearing one. I didn’t like to think of his tie getting creased in his trouser pocket und suggested to put it into a bag for him. He now told my father that I was “bossy”, enjoying “bossing” people around. He had brought me a little present, a tape he had made from one of his records: “Il Seraglio”. I was pleased to have it, because I like this music, too. During lunch I took the opportunity to ask New Friend would he be willing to help me and take over the shopping for Mr and Mrs Orms. I found it was getting a bit too much for me and was feeling a bit run down in fact. He gave a questioning “yes” and I said he could think about it and then let me know. After the meal we sat in the living room and he asked my father questions about the last war. My father was treading carefully, after all he was in “enemy country”. Also my father claims to have had enough of all these happenings. They were history now, according to him. What’s the point of digging it all up again? I’m sympathetic with this view and was surprized to find him read a book with a racy title about the last war.
New Friend left us eventually. I said to him “see you some time”, thinking that I needed to know about the shopping job I wanted to give him. My father thought New Friend was quite a character. Very male, I suppose. He wouldn’t sing in a mixed choir, he once told me, because that wasn’t “male enough”. He is fond of rugby songs and was delighted when I recited one to him that I had learned from my husband. He didn’t have much to say to my mother. He did say to me I was very much like her. My mother was no doubt thinking of all those letters I had received while on holiday with them and asked me had he settled down in the meantime. I reassured her there was no more I could do for him. She was happy with that, evidence certainly pointing this way.