Old school friend

Stampwell Farm in Oxfordshire, and I’m there on the way back from Coventry to spend time with a man without whom I know I wouldn’t be here to write to you. We were roommates at school. They worked out our breaking points and they were different. We both had treatment that makes no sense on any modern scale. We were forged brothers. We helped each other stay alive. We would try to look after each other always, and they never managed to play us against one another. Our breaking points thankfully never aligned, and we slept in the same room… When I was at rock bottom he helped raise me up. When he was, I did.

Sometimes when you’ve been through something, you need time to understand it. We went through it together, but we then had to process it alone. Many years passed while we parsed and sorted and compartmentalised all of the nastiness. My work helped. His faith helped. Gradually we reforged ourselves. I would venture to say we are both fundamentally kind humans. We were put into a crucible where they tried to burn our kindness out. We resisted and we stubbornly stayed kind – this made us persona non grata in a very limited bubble of people who had followed the prevailing ethos. These are the “captains of industry”. This is why they make no sense when you try to understand them via empathy. There’s a system that tries to burn your heart out. You have to literally fight to keep it.

Most of the people we were in that bubble with then are now either monsters or somebody else’s dog. I was glad to see the extent to which Frog has remained his own man. He’s clever and compassionate. I am happy to reconnect. I tend to be wary of those from my upbringing. I’ve experienced what they like to do to kind people.

Latimer Minster is the name of his planted faith space. Latimer is one of the three Oxford Anglican Martyrs, and one with a strong root into London. “We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” That’s what he said in 1539 just before they burnt him. “Minster” to align it with a monastic space instead of a clergy space. He’s allowing community here – a faith based community. And he’s got hold of a powerful bit of land. “I bet the mushrooms are good?” I say, testing in the hopes he doesn’t know. “There’s a chicken of the woods came up today,” he says. “It’ll be ready in a day or so.” *Damn* I think, and “That’s extremely early in the season,” I say. Hmm. Ok. So go look for your chickens, Oxfordshire folk. “The psychedelic ones are good too,” he adds, which makes me love him more. “I’m not so interested in that,” I lie. Let’s not overshare when I’m thinking I might make some theatrical stories in this incredible land. We are brothers, but judgement is often only a breath away.

I feel invigorated though. So moved by him and what he’s built, and so happy to feel welcomed by somebody who was so important to me back then. Him and Dan. I had nobody else, for years. Time and my uncompromising career has hurt the beauty of my friendship with Dan. I have been cast as a flake after being forced to miss his wedding. It’s still the single worst thing that has ever happened as a result of my job, and it brought about a literal nervous breakdown which the Twelfth Night cast deliberately mischaractered as exhaustion. It’s good to encounter Frog NOW. Who knows what might have happened over time, especially as our big point of contact has always been faith, and I needed to go away to come back where that is concerned…

All said, a beautiful stop. I was transporting suitcases from Coventry to London. He was on the way. I’m glad he was.

He’s made a prayer walk with a local artist, using found objects. This was just on the farm. Like kinstsugo, the artist has painted gold paint around the cracks. On my home altar I have thorns from Glastonbury and from the bush I met in the desert in Saudi. Thorn bushes are powerful to me and in my life. He has made an archway of thorns, dressed up with gold ribbons. He walked me through it before he told me the meaning. It’s about hooking away trauma. I’m glad he walked me through it first. What a huge delight of a man my friend Frog has become. I think our pathways will start to merge again going forward. Seeing him was still hard, for the memories. He remembered the racism, which I had buried just as it didn’t make sense, but yeah, those young English boys felt it was perfectly acceptable to constantly tell me I was a “greasy spic”. At one point, right before my hairline , prematurely receded, I was washing my hair with “Once” about twelve times a day. “Am I still greasy?” “Yes, you’ll always be greasy.”

Bastards. I’m perfectly ready to look at it now, and to see quite how pathetic they were. But it took a while for me to get there. I’m glad to be back in touch with Frog. I think this might be the beginning of something that started back then…

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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