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Still Friends

Created on 3/6/2008

Beginning about fifteen years ago I started to meet friends from my childhood. It started when I was editing a small video series I had produced in London. Someone saw my name, and remembering me from our mutual childhood he contacted me. His name is Roger Miller. I recalled a tall, blonde, thin guy when he was young. Time passes, and now Roger, although still tall, is no longer the proud owner of a head full of lustrous blond hair, and you couldn’t call him thin, but underneath the years he’s still the same Roger I lived one street away from. I suppose we all some carbuncles on us now, and perhaps a few pounds of excess baggage. But when I look at Roger I still see the hopeful teenager, and I guess he feels the same way about me.

Then I was looking for a house a few years later in Stanmore, the same district I had spent some of my formative years. The real estate agent told me that the house I was looking at was also being reviewed by another couple, and that they would be at the agency later the same day. I heard them mention the name Nigel, and that being a pretty unusual name, I asked whether it was a man called Nigel Schneider, and the woman clearly thought I was toying with her. It was indeed, the same Nigel I had last seen a bit more than forty years before at our secondary school, Harrow High School for Boys.

I followed up and met Nigel and it was reassuring to discover that his memories of school and adolescence were the same as mine. Up to that point I had begun to think I must have imagined some of the strange and deviant teachers it was our misfortune to encounter. Along with the good memories we had endured paedophilia from some of the senior staff that no one believed. I remember writing about this for our unofficial school magazine, Fanfare, which I produced with another great friend of the time, Michael Elton. Our publication was soon brought to an end despite it being a big success. We told our parents about the constant groping of some of the male staff, and in those less enlightened times, we were ignored. It was only when our headmaster was arrested for importuning outside a Gentlemen’s public lavatory in Harrow and was, as a consequence, banned from teaching at any boys’ school were we believed.

Some things have changed for the better, and the control of inappropriate adult supervision is certainly one of them.

More recently I received a communication from two friends who I went to primary school with. Jeff Gitter and Neville Spiers. The school was Holland House in Edgware, on the outskirts of North West London. These two venerable gentlemen hadn’t seen each other in nearly fifty years. At their reunion my name came up, in the spirit of whatever happened to Tony Klinger. They knew I had gone into the entertainment business but nothing much more. Whilst they raised my name the partner of Neville, soon to be wife, (mazeltov for later this month!) Roz Bluestone, overheard. Earlier that same day she had been in contact about the charity showing of my film, Full Circle, for the charity she works at, World Jewish Relief. By ridiculous fluke she was able to tell the guys where I was that day!

Some people call that kismet, but in our vernacular we would call it bashert, our way of saying an event is fated or predestined.

We have since followed through and become friends once more. But I have to admit that when I look at Neville particularly, I see the eager ten or eleven year old and not the middle aged man. I wonder if that’s why it’s so particularly comforting to rekindle these old relationships. It’s like throwing on a comfortable old sweater, you know it isn’t the most fashionable shape or colour, but it feels good, smells better and keeps you warm. I wonder if he sees the grey haired me, or the small boy in the pictures he had kept of us? We were both in the boxing and soccer teams, and we were small and nervous about getting hit on the nose. My mother used to let me go to school on boxing match days with the admonition, “don’t let them hit you on the face!” I did try mum, no one ducked lower or more often than me, but still they tried to hit me, the bastards. Happily they didn’t connect too often on the Klinger proboscis, as I only lost once.

I remember my grandfather’s friend, a famed ex champion boxer, telling me, “hit them on the nose and in the kishkeh, they’ll sprout some claret and be sick and it’ll be all over! Roughly translated it meant I should hit them on the nose to make it bleed and in the belly. Schoolboy amateur boxers and their families never did understand that it’s best not to eat for many hours before a fight. I have to admit that in my mind I was boxing like Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali) but I was floating like a bumblebee and stinging like a butterfly.

But in the small world of Holland House School we were holding our own and building happy memories. Looking back its hard not to see everything through a rosy glow of happy memories. Of course the world was not in sepia, and the sun didn’t always shine, but it was a simpler world, and there seemed to be a clearer distinction between right and wrong. There was less grey, more black and white. The world was better for this clarity and it certainly felt better. Wouldn’t it be great if our present society were to rediscover some of those forgotten, simple, straightforward core values of civility, courtesy and honesty?

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