These days I am not overly into presents; well, not the variety can be unwrapped. However, an email arrived this week from an old friend – a friend I haven’t seen for over 18 years; a friend I used to climb mountains with; a friend whose children, who were then toddlers, I am shocked to find have now grown into men. But we still look the same. We look exactly the same. (Can you tell I’ve just watched When Harry Met Sally? to monitor how much I’ve changed. Every five years: that’s the rule.)
18 Christmases ago I lent my flat to someone while I was away travelling in New Zealand. A letter (remember them?) with a change of address was accidentally disposed of. And it only took me 18 years to track someone else down who had it and – in these days of Data Protection and paranoia – to bribe them to hand it over.
There are several people who I owe a lot to and who I have never really said thank you to. Just as a line written without thought can turn out to be the pivotal line in a plot, I only worked out how important this person was to me in retrospect. At a time when I was lacking in confidence and encouragement he said to me “You are just about the most capable person I have ever met.” He may have meant it as a throwaway line. I took him seriously.
This is for you, Steve.