My long suffering best friend is M. She has the most gorgeous toes I have ever seen.
M and I have little in common. M is married. I am not. It is a rare thing for women of different marital/non-marital statuses to be friends. M is petite and gave up smoking a long time ago. I am not petite and smoke like a train. We do, however, both drink. There was a time when we were both married and shared the indignity of our respective husbands regularly phoning our local to see where we were. One or both of them regularly collected us from ‘The Woodie’ on Friday evenings after work. In the old days we would have driven ourselves home but the Drink/Drive law forced us into requiring other modes of transport.
M is well-read and proper arty. She understands dance. I on the other hand read westerns and Robert Ludlum thrillers, and support West Ham, proving I don’t even understand football.
M has a large girly wardrobe. My clothes can fit into a supermarket carrier bag, most of which no self-respecting transvestite would be seen dead in.
M travels a lot. She is au fait with districts of Paris and Rome. She skis and apres pistes, and whilst black runs hold no fear for her, the closest I have ever come to one was a nasty little stomach bug back in 1989.
Rather like Princess Diana who once said there were three people in her marriage, M ‘lived’ my dismal little escapade into marriage with me. Every crisis and tantrum. When my daughter was born and my husband couldn’t seem to compute what a dress which could be described as ‘a little white dress’ might look like, it was M that managed to find one – thus saving the world as we know it from ending.
M was also there for the D-I-V-O-R-C-E. Looking back now it is difficult to say which one of us must have been more relieved that that little spat was finally over. This is where her stamina really kicked in. And where she finally revealed the darker side to her nature: her ability to tell such humdinger of slime green lies such as: “of course, it’s all his fault… you are a great person … yes, you’re right … you never did anything to deserve this.” And M was largely to thank for my children having money ‘of their own’ at Christmas during the years when credit cards were used to pay credit cards.
M is my son’s godmother. And like all good mothers she treats the other one just the same.
Presiding over the third child’s wedding, MO’B greets us in the middle of a conversation about the ‘Rocky’ films.
K., the groom, is rather excited to see us as he has just been talking about ‘Crossroads’, a film that only one person he has ever met has seen, a film which I apparently introduced to him as a child, and then I appeared, walking across the lawn. K also mentions ‘The Karate Kid’ and the ‘Rocky’s and then MO’B joins us and is gushing in his praise for the perfect symmetry of the series. Within is a few short seconds there is a debate and everyone is very animated. And instantly we are all under MO’B’s spell. For his word will be final: even when you ‘win’ an argument or debate he will leave you feeling that you were actually ‘wrong’, mainly because your little brain simply isn’t ‘big’ enough to accommodate the ‘higher’ thoughts swimming around in his much larger one.
And for some strange reason you are glad. Because it is weirdly reassuring to know you have direct access to ‘God’, ‘his thinking’, and what is right and what is wrong. MO’B has this effect on everyone who meets him. There is a strange infallibility about him – which is almost creepy because you would expect someone who is so ‘all-knowing’ to be running a major corporation, or at least a small country. In fact he is an ex-Head of English/Deputy Headteacher, who actually has all the insecurities of a prepubescent teenager and worries about lacking compassion, despite being the most compassionate person I have ever met.
MO’B has the gift of accessing everything and everybody without appearing to judge; he also appears to know everything yet still asks loads of questions. Politically he claims to be a socialist but actually lives like the ideal communist; he is a staunch Catholic but embraces people and ideals from all faiths. He is also totally sexist and yet women seem to love him, because he claims, all women really want is to be listened to.
Much more could be said about MO’B. Reference could be made to his English teaching, his song writing, hockey playing, Catholic People’s Week leading, music evening fund-raising organising: I could talk about the school trip to Moscow and Leningrad, school productions and evenings in the Woody; about baby-sitting ‘the kids’ and driving around Walsall in the Honda prelude blaring out Meatloaf; about house parties in Bloxwich Road and singing ‘The Boston Burglar’ with BH; the parking fine I got when he told me it was OK to park outside the Pretty Bricks when it very clearly wasn’t. I could talk about living next door to him on the English floor and arguments about smoking, leading the NUT and creating the Creative Arts Week. I could talk about him saying that my getting married was a ‘desperate’ thing to do and the day he declared that I was ‘a pathetic little thing really’. I could also mention his idolisation of Bob Dylan and how much he loves Glenfiddich and Bushmills. However, all I really need to say is that he is GM’s godfather and The Godfather to everyone else who he has mentored, worked alongside and drank with. And if he’s not, it’s because you’re a Philistine.