In keeping with the “old friends” theme recently established, I saw Nathan today. He and I lived here in Chelsea together for many years after mum died. It’s his birthday today. The 12th September. I used to know it very well indeed. We were inseparable for a few years before he moved up north in “the divorce,” to have kids with his girlfriend.
When he moved in here there were no doors. Mum didn’t like doors. There was also no furniture, as Max and I had always thought we were going to sell the place and had been working towards that. There were two beanbags to sit on while we didn’t watch telly. There was no telly. We slept on mattresses on the floor. Mine was a futon mattress donated by friends who were moving up north. He was paying peppercorn rent so I got him a bed online – the same bed that I very recently burnt outside an Airstream in a Sussex woodland. Luxury.
Slowly things came in, but that was the beginning. It’s amazing when I think back on it – how empty it was here apart from the attic. And we had both just left drama school. We weren’t earning much so couldn’t spend on furniture. A year later and I was still sleeping on a futon mattress on the floor. I like a hard bed so paying for better slipped down the priority list. But slowly things changed here. And we lived, and it was good. But all things come to an end. And arguably the lifestyle we had slipped into was not sustainable long term. Good God we had some big nights around London together. We would frequently arrive and leave as a unit, speak in shorthand, argue in public. Putting doors on the bedrooms gave us both something to slam. My sister in law was convinced we were lovers. I can see why, with distance. It was a strange, intimate, powerful friendship.
Suddenly he was in town to see Hamilton. I don’t think he’s been back to this flat since he left, perhaps a decade ago. But after the show, we made arrangements to see each other. He came over with the lady.
“Remember when I had a massive hypo here and you called the paramedics,” says Ruth, the aforementioned lady. They’ve got two kids now up in Manchester. I remember that hypo very well. At the end of a long heavy night she suddenly came into the living room speaking in tongues. Then she fell over. She’s diabetic. Half an hour later some attractive young men were feeding her sugar from tubes while we looked on in hapless concern. She’s the mother of his two kids now so it’s good she got herself out of bed to tell us. But that was my first experience of what happens to diabetics when they get the balance wrong. It was good to have her here.
And it was amazing to have him here – in this very different flat. We covered all that ground post college and then, in our own ways, we both moved on.
The sofa is the about the only thing that’s the same here now. Nathan used to sell fine leather sofas and he roped me in to cover the warehouse on the weekends. I got this sofa as close to cost price as John would ever let anybody have it. It’s huge and it’s done good service.. I have no idea how they got it up into the flat. But … it has lasted. I’ve got my money’s worth from it. All that shit we’d talk about – “This is more than just a sofa, it’s a legacy. That’s why you pay more. This will be a sofa for your kids, for your grandkids.” Utter rot. But thinking about it that sofa has had over a decade of heavy use, it’s still comfortable, and I paid less half of what the sticker said. Had I paid full price I’d need at least another ten years on it…
We caught up. We chewed the fat. It was a long time ago and we are different, but the points of contact are still there. We still know how to be friends. We could still spiral into one of those charming carnage London nights of old. I got him to model one of the 23 moleskin capes… I still haven’t pushed them out, so they’re in a pile on the sofa. That’s for “later Al”.
He’s on a train back to Manchester.
Until next time.