43 6 mins 9 yrs

A guest post twosome, first this one by Seimi!

“The 23rd of July, for me, has, in recent years, been a day where melancholia tends to raise its ugly head, and I find my thoughts turning to more sombre things. Allow me to explain.

When I was young, 11 years old to be precise, I moved from Primary school, where I knew everyone, to secondary school, where I knew practicaly no one. It was a frightening experience, not helped by the fact that I was originally supposed to go to a grammar school, but, due to lack of spaces, I had to spend nearly 3 months in a nearby secondary school. I settled in the secondary school, and was happy, until one day, a Friday, I was told that, as of the following Monday, I would be attending a new school. I was heartbroken. I had gotten to know all my classmates, my teachers, and had already been thrown out of religion class for asking the ‘wrong’ questions. And now I had to leave.

So, the following Monday, I put on a different tie, and went to my new school. I knew 4 people there, out of around 350 pupils.  3 of them were my brother and two of his friends; the other was a guy from my primary school. I hated it.

After a couple of days, I was sitting at my desk in English class, when something hit me on the cheek. I looked around, but couldn’t figure out from whence the attack had come. A moment later, I felt another sharp sting on my cheek, and this time I was fast enough to spot my assailant: a small, quiet guy, who I had never spoken to, never even said ‘Hi’ to. He was sitting there, with an improvised peashooter in his hand, and a smile on his face, so mischievious it would shame the devil himself. By the end of that day, we were firm friends.

We became practically inseparable over the next 10 years or more. We went to school together, and spent each weekend in each other’s company. We went to discos, parties, concerts and céilís together. Our names combined were a byword for laughs and madness.

And then something changed in him. He seemed to get a bit colder, a bit angrier. His manner became a bit more aggressive. He was always spoiling for at least an argument, if not a full-on fight with someone – anyone.  ( I later found out that there had been a history of domestic violence at home, from a particularly angry stepfather.) The final straw for me was when, on finding an injured bird, he tortured the poor creature, before finally putting it out of its misery. After that, I broke off contact with him, though he stayed in touch with a few of our mutual friends.

I didn’t see him again for perhaps seven years, when I happened to bump into him, outside a bar in Belfast city centre. He was arguing with the doorman, who wouldn’t let him in, because of how drunk he was (a mutual friend told me later that he had drank a full 10-glass bottle of vodka before going in to town.). When he saw myself and my (then) wife, he angrily told the doorman that I would vouch for him and that he had to let him in. The doorman told me that there was no way he was getting in, and, if I tried to get my friend in, that I would also be refused entry. We were meeting my father and other friends and family inside, so I had to tell my friend that I couldn’t help him. He called me so many awful names that night. I haven’t seen or spoken to him him since. That was around 12 years ago. I tried to phone him, but he had changed his number. I don’t have an address for him now. I know he’s still alive, because friends occasionally (very occasionally) tell me that they have met him. He drinks heavily, and seems to do nothing else. I miss him.

Today is his birthday. I wish him well. I raise a glass to the guy who made me welcome in my new school, the guy who made me laugh, the guy who came up with so many crazy schemes and diversions when we were young, the guy who was, and is, my friend.

With David’s kind indulgence, I post a link to a song that was a particular favourite of ours, way back when.

Happy birthday, B. Be well, and stay safe.”

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43 thoughts on “Absent Friends

  1. very moving, very sad. God there are so many moments and memories that we choose to “not” remember aren’t there?

  2. Great post Seimi. From the heart.
    Life is full of sunshine and showers and sadness too. The very fact that you wrote about this shows the kind of man you are.
    If I shot a peashooter at you would you be my friend? 😉

    I still remember boys from boarding school days. I have tried tracing some of them but with little success.
    Yet for me those boarding school days and the experiences and lessons learnt remain fresh in my mind.
    I have a younger brother to whom I haven’t spoken for maybe five years now. He had/has? a drink problem. He broods on stuff, his wife makes the bullets and he fires them . The last straw was him threatening violence to my remaining sister.
    I decided that it would be better to break contact. As time has gone by I have told my wife and sister that I don’t want him and his family coming to my funeral (that damn’d Nepalese sherry), because I don’t like hypocrisy. If there is to be reconciliation it should happen in life.
    I have no anger or bitterness toward him. He remains my brother and as such I love him. it’s just that like our mother he can be extremely venomous in the things he says and we don’t need it.
    As a Christian I have thought about it a lot. Forgiveness etc. but I have done all of that and in my prayers I talk to the Lord about it and leave it with Him.
    I feel at peace about it, and like you with your friend you just feel a sadness for a lost friend/relationship.

  3. Zzzzzzzzz is this not apolitical blog? In the name of Jesus the economy is in tatters the world in a terrible state of ‘chassis’ and in n Ireland we write this on a politics blog and fight over a few feet of road…

    Quite frankly seimi I couldn’t give a toss about yer mate, and if you wanted to seriously contact him you could do it many ways rather than on a blog he most likely doesn’t know about…

    Have a titter o’ wit wuss ye!

  4. Kateyo
    The heart of politics is the human condition.
    Seimi’s post is as relevant as any of the drivel you come out with on occasion.


  5. Who told you the heart of politics was the human condition, or did you make it up? Politics in the sense defined here has to do with the sovereign state and its issues, not simply human interest stories.

    Pete Moore blogged about a woman in dubai , that was both human interest but connected to the powers that be in dubai. This is a subjective story, of no political value what so ever. If comments were to run off on a thread, then someone could ask for it to stay on topic. There is room for subjective stuff in open threads, unless its not a politics blog but something else?

    As for drivel comments imv you top that list.

    I shall say no more on it, simply pass over such posts in future, but had hopes of seimi adding something insightful rather than subjective stuff that’s very uh interesting. If it were troll there’d be a huge sigh over it.

  6. Zzzzzzzzz is this not apolitical blog?

    Well, judging by the amount of posts on music, sport, religion etc., then no, it isn’t a ‘political’ site.

    Quite frankly seimi I couldn’t give a toss about yer mate…

    Fair point, kateyo, and I think I see a solution. Don’t bother reading the post 🙂

    …if you wanted to seriously contact him you could do it many ways rather than on a blog he most likely doesn’t know about…

    You appear to have missed the point. I didn’t write this and post it here, in the hope that he would read it and make contact. I was sitting, late last night, and remembered what date it was. I decided to put down in words a few of my thoughts. I have tried to make contact, but to no avail. That makes me sad, and I decided to post something about it. My apologies if it didn’t interest you, however, there is always the solution I suggested above? 🙂

    Have a titter o’ wit wuss ye!

    You may have to translate this for some of our foreign readers 😉

  7. Seimi I suggest you read the writing above the door

    ‘A Tangled Web – A contemporary view of British and American Politics’

    The music posts are a weekend event, and classed as a break from politics and its issues, religion etc that you mention are classed as current affairs not subjective laments.

    If you miss your mate that much contact those whom you say saw him and go and find him, if you miss him as much as you say, otherwise maybe you could spare us? Do you not consider the state the world is in at night due to hunger or repressive regimes?

    Quite frankly your stories of growing up in west belfast could have been seen as an introduction, but have you no political issues to write on, or is ATW simply a way of getting noticed.

    As for titter o’ Witt no one will need it explained, atw’s understanding of Irish colloquialisms is ok.

  8. Kateyo, if my post has in some way bothered you, I apologise for that and I will attempt to focus more on political issues from now on, if that pleases you.

    That said, I did write about the GFA in regards to the Irish language and its committments. You didn’t respond at all.

    I also wrote about the newly-formed Protestant Coalition. You didn’t respond at all.

    When Mahons posted about my mentioning the Creationism theory at the Giant’s Causeway, something put in place by the then Minister for Culture and Arts, again you didn’t respond.

    have you no political issues to write on,

    See above

    or is ATW simply a way of getting noticed.

    Quite insulting, but to respond, no, it’s not a ‘way to get noticed’. I enjoy writing, it’s something I’ve done for a few years now. David suggested at the ATW Summit that, should either myself or Paul wish to write something for the site, then to go ahead. I decided to take him up on the offer, that’s all. I said at the time that my posts would focus more on culture and language. Perhaps I didn’t make that clear enough.

    If you wish to see some more political posts go up, why don’t you write a few yourself? I’m sure they would be fascinating.

  9. “As for drivel comments imv you top that list.”

    Gee thanks!
    Coming from you, praise indeed.

  10. //Creationism theory at the Giant’s Causeway, something put in place by the then Minister for Culture and Arts//

    Did the Minister for Culture and Arts really create the Giant’s Causeway?

    The benfits of the GFA just keep coming.

  11. Thanks for the offer of writing seimi, but I hardly have time for twitter never mind writing, that said not everyone responds to all posts, there’s no mandatory amount of posts to be responded to for commenting. Your post didn’t bother me as much as sadden, ATW can be a spectacular political blog, it’s a pity to see its front page with subjective posts, that is all.

    As regards the newly formed P coalition, I believe it was covered in the comments of another blog post, though may stand corrected, but I have a vague recollection of mentioning it here. Regarding the Irish language, there have been many such posts here and else where and I am of the opinion that my views have been aired on that subject many times, elsewhere.

    Please continue with your growing up stories etc, I shall leave you to it. Nor did I mean to be insulting, but dv is. Man of free speech and straight talking, which is usually whats done here?

  12. Kateyo,
    Have you read any good books lately?
    My brother in law (the evil, traumatised circumcised Jewish one), has loaned me
    “The New Few” by Ferdinand Mount.
    Ever heard of it?
    You don’t write drivel. I was just attention seeking.

  13. I think that you’re being a bit pedantic / hard Katey but that’s just MHO.

    However, your mild complaint about non political blogs going up here has almost inspired me to get off my lazy arse and fire a political piece off to David for screening.

  14. Although I’ll probably be criticised in the sense that it’s outside the remit of ‘contempory British & American politics’

  15. Yeah, I’ll knock something up and send it off to David over the next few days.

  16. Interesting piece Siemi
    For what it’s worth I think that one of ATW’s strengths is the occasional human condition piece.

  17. You don’t write drivel. I was just attention seeking.

    Flattery will get you everywhere..

    I’ve been reading james lee burke, I hadn’t read much of him before, but have got caught up in his dave robicheaux novels, and they’re excellent. I also have lined up ‘after america’ recommended here, and a true crime one from ann rule, I like her shes good. How about you, haven’t read the one you mention, must look it up.

    Paul look forward to your blog..you’re spoiling us now..:)

  18. Seimi

    I admire the patient way you bothered to explain and respond to Kateyo, when you had no need to at all. You should have ignored her rude and ill mannered complaint. David happily posted your piece on HIS blog – it’s not for Kateyo or anyone else here to decide what is suitable.

  19. Colm

    I said right at the start that if I offended anyone, to point it out and I would apologise. I suppose I treated this the same way.

    I have a lot of time for kateyo. Her tweets during times of ‘unrest’ here are always informative and up to date, and she is also a fellow west Belfastian, so her knowledge and input are always useful.

    Also, I know it’s David’s blog, but one of the strengths here is the ability and active encouragement to speak one’s mind. That’s what I did with this latest post – wrote what was on my mind, and it is equally kateyo’s right to criticise what I write.

    Now, if you don’t mind, I’m trying to cry softly into my beer here 😉

  20. Colm, how is it not for readers to say what they think of a blog post, it happens here all the time, and indeed i’m sure you have done it yourself. troll takes huge amounts of criticism for blog posts, and he takes it on the chin..

    comments are for commenting, I didn’t know that on a blog valuing free speech self censor ship was paramount.

    Rude and ill mannered, indeed some smut has been rude and ill mannered, did paul not post something the other night about women and sucking….that’s a pretty high standard to live up to mind…

    As I said to seimi, he can blog away on subjective issues, I simply won’t bother with them, but criticism is far from uncommon. Even ernest has done it about too many music posts, troll took it for his personal posts. This is hardly a fan club for goodness sake.

  21. “This is hardly a fan club for goodness sake.”

    You mean..!
    That not everybody LIKES me?!!

    (Laughs hysterically)

    Imo David Vance has provided the best blog on for
    bad tempered,
    naively idealistic,
    anywhere on the web. 🙂

  22. Seimi here is a little something to whet your political tastebuds, though I must warn others it’s local here

    excellent isn’t ot?

  23. Feeny’s always a good read Katey. He’s a first cousing of my good friend Hugh Feeney.

    Rude and ill mannered, indeed some smut has been rude and ill mannered, did paul not post something the other night about women and sucking….that’s a pretty high standard to live up to mind…

    I was responding in the context of a joke, I warned that the joke was obscene and I repeated what Shane MacGowan said so please don’t shoot the messenger and please don’t drag me into any cat fights folks.

  24. I wish people wouldn’t view things like frank exchanges as cat fights! Seimi and I merely spoke frankly, there is no fight between seimi and I!

  25. Speaking regarding your post to Colm Katey I don’t regard your exchange with Seimi as a cat fight.

  26. I laughed at your joke Paul I was merely scoring points with colm, not fighting ! 😉

    Heavens above, anyhow did anyone read this here

  27. Fair enough Katey I’m sorry if I’ve made this bigger than it actually is.

    I’m gonna wise the bap and say no more on the subject

  28. kateyo,
    when you asked me earlier about reading I did a lovely and all inclusive list and then it disappeared..
    I have finished all of lee Childs, Vince Flynn, most of Ben Kane, Harry Sidebottom and now Richard Blake.
    Just finished (for the umpteenth time) Slavomir Rawicz’s great account of “The Long Walk.” Set in the early years of WW2 it’s about the escape of a small group of men (mostly Iris Polish men from a labour camp near Yakutsk into Mongolia across the Gobi desert, into Tibet then across the Himalayas into India. 4000 miles +

    I also have lined up Margartet Thatcher’s “The path to power”
    Barack Obama’s “Dreams of my Father”
    the autobiographies of Leonard Cohen and Lord Alan Sugar
    Dr. Seuss’s “Green eggs and ham..”

  29. kateyo –

    Primarily this is a political blog, but you can’t have just politics all the time. A little diversion, whether happy or sad, is occasionally necessary.

  30. A very sincere and thoughtful article, Seimi. You’re clearly a man who cares about his present, and former friends. It’s a pleasure to read your posts.
    This former friend of yours has fallen down a hole, and is presently very unwell. It happens to all of us, in some way or another.
    I do hope that you might perchance meet your friend again. He won’t have forgotten you, or the friendship you once had. And although he may appear to others, these days, to be nothing more than a dirty, smelly, wretched drunk, someone to be avoided, you know him for the person he was, and still is, inside. And merely by being yourself, you never know, you just might be able to help to wrench him out of the hole he has fallen into. The mere fact that you thought about him enough to write something, that’s good of you. And good is never lost.

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