Six doors away from me lived Jonathan He was a year and a half older than me, and a lonely child, so eventually it was inevitable that we became friends. Being a typical child of the 80s, we'd play on each other's computers. I had the Spectrum (All hail the Spectrum!) and he'd wanted to be different and so he got an Atari (!) 800XL. We also had similar tastes in music, and we'd both spend the summer holidays sat in his backgarden listening to Phil Collin's album Sussudio or the Miami Vice soundtrack. He was of similar build, so we'd find ourselves in the same clothes shops, and whereas I couldn't afford a lot of clothes, he worked for his Dad and would buy the latest fashions. I'll never forget the day he got himself a cotton suit and cotton loafers without socks just in the style of a certain Don Johnson character.
As we grew up together, we slowly worked our way through our firsts. We first got drunk together, and spent our first alcohol fuelled new years eve together in the pub in Crystal Palace. I got my first Saturday job through him, when he was the manager of the shoe concession in Burton's in Croydon. I'd spend my Saturdays advising people on shoes and trainers, from our dark and dingy corner, for a substantial £1.46 an hour. The problem with Jon was that sometimes his loyalties would appear elsewhere when it came to his 'best friend.' One such time was whilst working for Burton's. Jon and I would cycle to work and cycle home again, and it was around this time that he thought it would be funny for him and the branch manager to tamper with my bike. So they loosened the gears and sure enough on the way home the back wheel jammed, sending me over the handlebar and into the path of a car. He passed off the event as "Meh, you just can't take a joke."
Another time, I'd got into trouble with the Police. His mother was a very prominent stalwart, and neighbourhood watch coordinator (see 'curtain twitcher'), and made it clear that obviously the trouble making child that hung around with her son was responsible for 'things' going missing from the house. I knew otherwise, and my misguided loyalty meant that I took the wrap for him stealing foreign currencies from his father to buy a posh walkman and new bike.
When I moved away from the area, we'd meet up still. I'd catch the bus from Reading into London's Victoria, and he'd catch the train up there, and we'd spend the Saturday night in the bar by the station. As I moved away from the area, I kept in touch. He had a job a stone's throw from Buck House in London, working for what was then Midland Bank. We'd meet up regularly in the Blue Post pub, scene of the Blogger's bloody big booze up 2 years ago. Around the time John was born, he came and spent the weekend with BLS at our humble little flat in Southend, and spent a few other weekends there as well. It was only when he got promoted and transferred to Jersey the visits stopped. I'd chat to him on the phone, but we wouldn't see each other very often. Meanwhile, I moved to Manchester, and knew meeting up would be even more difficult. The following Christmas we'd made a plan. He was due back from Jersey, and was going to come and visit. We were then going to take a trip to Sedburgh, on the Scottish Border, where we could spend the night in a pub, good food, good conversation, and a general good old catch up. I wasn't working at the time, so I pulled out all the stops to ensure I had enough money to go with him. I sold things that could be replaced, and sure enough the night before he was due I had saved £150 for the much looked forward to night out. The phone rang...
"Hi Rik, it's Jon."
"Hi Jon. How's you, how was the trip over to the mainland?"
"It was fine. I'm just calling to let you know I won't be up. I can't be bothered."
"What, at all?"
"No, not at all."
I argued with him, almost begging him, but it was futile. I was hurt, but in the end I thought "oh well. We'll see each other soon." I sent him a Christmas card, care of his Mum. I didn't get one in return. I sent him a birthday card 7 months later for his 21st. I didn't get an acknowledgement. I tried writing to him, sending more cards, generally keeping the friendship alive, but it looked like his mother had finally got her wish. He didn't want contact with me, and I haven't seen him since.
Merry Christmas Jon.
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