"Let's swear here and now that whatever the future brings, whatever happens, that we will always stay the best of friends. Even if something unthinkable happens like falling in love with the same man, let's agree to dump him rather than to lose the affection of each other. If one of us wins the lottery, let's promise to share it. Now that we have sworn that neither man nor money will ever come between us, we should be setting off back home for afternoon tea before they start looking for us.
Just as a flower cannot blossom without shade or sun, I believe that neither man nor woman can fully grow without the influence and presence of a friend. The very best thing about a true friend is that they will never believe the worse and will love you anyway. Over the past year on Facebook, I have been blessed to have been reacquainted with many old friends from my past with whom the passage of life separated us. Being in my seventies now, I frequently think about those friends of old who have suffered great tragedy or who have died over the years.
The friends of my youth are the very people in my life who are best capable of keeping me young. We thought alike, we shared our secrets and concealed each other's shame. In many ways, the friends of my youth were the siblings that God forgot to give me. Most of them became blood brothers in any cause we fought. They cheered with me when we won and bled with me in the gang fights that we lost.
However old I get, I will never forget dropping a brick on the head of a friend from the second floor of a new council house in the process of construction, as a group of us played cowboys and Indians. He was in hospital for three weeks, but never told. I cannot escape the memories of playing rodeo on the backs of cows down the fields of Green Lane or inserting darts into the end of arrows as we tried to better the other side in our battles to the death! Indeed, come to think of it, I never had a male friend who never became a hospital patient during our time together.
In our teens, friends could always be relied upon to share everything they had with you, with the one exception of course, girlfriends. In fact, going out with a friend's girl behind his back was the most capital of all offences, even if the girl proved a willing accomplice to the deceit. Though it has no doubt happened many times, I once recalled one young chap who took on the dumped girlfriend of another, only to find her pregnant in later months and marrying her in the great uncertainty of cross-over doubt. These were the days, where paternity could never be 100% established and the one who got caught holding the bairn when the musical chairs stopped was left to push the pram!
Another friend of mine stole from a shop behind the keeper's back and ran off. The shopkeeper gave chase and the thief passed his stolen goods to his friend in their dash for freedom. The boy holding the stolen goods stumbled and fell, only to be caught by the shopkeeper. He, being the one caught with the goods in his hands was the one to pay the price, very much like my other friend, forced to marry because of the sin of another!
I spent most of my years between boyhood and manhood living on Windybank. Though not wealthy in material terms, my friends were my estate and what I most valued. Being part of a boy gang who enjoyed the rough and tumble, our friendship was often tested when two boys walking home were set upon by a gang of four or five others. The estate code was harsh in the extreme. If one of the two ran away, leaving the other to face the consequences, he would be excommunicated from the gang forevermore. If he stayed and fought, his friendship and reputation would be reinforced and remain for life.
The most horrific memories I ever experienced was when one mate fell from the top of a fairground Big Wheel in Cleckheaton and landed on a girl. The girl died instantly and the youth from Windybank Estate was left badly crippled. Being unable to walk properly myself at the time, I sympathised with his plight. The crippled mate, now being unable to walk without the greatest of difficulty, started to ride a motorbike and often bragged about doing the ton (a hundred miles per hour). A friend of mine called Colin, who also was a motorbike rider, raced the other for a wager and both finished up being killed in the same accident on the road to Blackpool.
I have always thought that the friendships between girls as opposed to the friendships between boys, though similar in some ways, are spattered with less aggression and potentially fatal consequences. This isn't some macho concept I have always carried, it just seemed to be a truth of the time and place in which I grew up." William Forde: May 9th, 2016.