“Anybody remotely interesting is mad in some way.”
–The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) in the Doctor Who serial The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
In the last exciting episode of “Dave-ros Lives!”, I wrote about how bafflingly happy I am to be a weird individual who doesn’t conform, and doesn’t like the same stuff as everyone else. Well, you’ll be pleased to know that the people I have counted as my friends during my life were (and are) all complete weirdos as well, and stand out from the general dross of boring old “normal” humanity in the same way that the stars shine in the eternal darkness of space.
But tonight I won’t be talking about primary school, when my best friends were a Japanese boy and a boy with dyslexia, or secondary school, when I hung out with a closeted Star Trek fan from the Westcountry; no, I’m going to big up those friends who have kept me alive in more recent years, when my life has been difficult. Obviously I won’t be using any real names (I still can’t believe how I used my real name on the Internet in 1996 — it was still there at Mr. Cranky’s movie reviews for years afterward, though fortunately he seems to have cleared out the old stuff more recently!), but I hope my friends, if they’re reading this drivel, will know who they are and know that I value their friendship (since I’m still in touch with them via Facebook), rather than tell me I’ve gotten something wrong and telling me to take a hike! Remember, the comments are your right of rebuttal… uh huh huh huh, I said “butt”!
First of all, 2001 was one of the worst years of my life, even before “Nine-Eleven”, foot-and-mouth disease and Tony Blair getting re-elected: after graduating, I was living at home and frustrated because I thought I’d never make enough money to do a post-grad course, thanks to getting fired by the Environment Agency. However, during the summer I was invited over to America by the younger brother of the guy I’d shared a room with when I was on a student exchange in 1998-9, for what turned out to be the best two weeks of the year. He’s had me over to visit many times, and he’s my buddy and quasi-little brother as a result — and I’d definitely have him over to visit this side of the pond, so he could stand on the zebra crossing from the cover of Abbey Road! He’s mildly handicapped, making him like a “big kid”, which suits me fine because that’s kind of how I am too (although I’ve never been formally diagnosed with anything), and indeed was still collecting Transformers when I visited in 2003 (I still want a set of G1 Constructicons, since they weren’t officially sold in the UK in the 1980s!).
In 2003 I finally went back to university to study Astrophysics, and escaped my dull home town to London, making several new friends as a result, many of them female. Although I hoped to find someone special, I regarded these young ladies as my little sisters — it was a wonderful experience, being able to act like a “big brother”, instead of having girls (however well-meaning) looking down on my like a “little brother” when I was at school. One was an Asian girl raised in Scandinavia who spoke with an American accent, which is pretty awesome, and another was a confidant and — ironically — “big sister” to me, who helped me in my low periods. I’m still in touch with them now, even though one went back abroad and the other is now married and lives “oop North”.
The third, the one I still refer to as “female best friend”, and who is so afraid of ghosts despite not believing in them (due to being a Christian) that she had to sleep in someone else’s room after we watched the Stephen King miniseries Rose Red (which I didn’t find scary at all!), effectively saved my life once: when four of us (me, her, the big-little sister mentioned above, and the guy I’ve previously referred to as “good housemate”) were moving into a house together at the end of our Astrophysics course, she lent me the money I needed for my share of the deposit after I stupidly left it until the last minute to find out I couldn’t get an overdraft! Christian charity, perhaps, but I’m very glad she did it (much like Worf in Star Trek: DS9, I may not believe in a deity, but I do have faith in the faith of others), as it saved me from having to go back to Worthing like a failure, and my life really began in London. She was my housemate for another two years or so, and I continue to visit her regularly after that, even when she also went “oop North”. She’s about to get married, and while I’m happy for her, I’m also a little sad, as I probably won’t be able to visit her any more and watch films/TV/anime together… but that just means I have to find a “significant other” of my own to share my favourite things with!
There’s also the aforementioned “good housemate”: while he was mean to me initially (largely thanks to the influence of another guy on our course, who (wait for it) went “oop North” to do a PhD when the rest of us moved into that house together), I was grateful to have him as a housemate for many years afterwards, even after we went to Caledonian Road and “female best friend” moved out. Indeed, no less than five times did we have to seek a “third housemate” (although that didn’t turn out so well the last time) during our five years at that place! Perhaps more than anyone else, though, I think he saved my life: not just on “the other Twelve-Twelve” in January 2012 when I might have contemplated suicide if he hadn’t come home and calmed me down, but also at the end of that month when he let me stay at his new flat during the period between moving out of the old place and moving into the new one. Pizza and Gears of War 2, it was like a holiday… though since he was using his electric heating (ecch!) sparingly, admittedly it was like a holiday in Alaska! But I won’t complain, he pulled my fat out of the fire when I needed it, and as a result, I am his to command, like one of those sitcom episodes where X saves Y’s life by accident, and Y won’t leave X alone until he makes Y think he saved X’s life instead (e.g. Willis and Arnold from Diff’rent Strokes).
On that topic, the leaderene of this household where I found myself in early 2012, the landlord’s friend’s daughter, is also an interesting companion (despite her passive-aggressive tendency to nag me to do household tasks by text message rather than in person), due to her eccentricities such as not being able to ignore any tasty-looking cereal in the house, and by offering me a place in this household at the end of that horrible week, she could also be said to have saved my life, or at least my life in London! Another “interesting companion” in this household is a session drummer (I won’t mention his name because he’s famous enough to have a Wikipedia entry) with whom I occasionally have pizza, and who is, well, a loony whose acquaintance I am pleased to have made, and who enjoyed The Blues Brothers when I lent it to him.
Finally, I don’t big up my own mother enough for all the support she’s given me through the years. Even though she’s not always right about “real life” (that realisation proved I’d really grown up — it’s a bit of a shock!), and is a flawed human being like everyone else (well, not as flawed, perhaps — we’re not like “normal” people, after all!), she’s inspired me with her drive to get fit and escape depression, and I don’t know what I’d have done without her example. Maybe one day I’ll join her on one of her jaunts to Japan and act as her translator, assuming I can do enough Nihongo no benkyou to make it worthwhile; it’d be fitting, as it was only last year that I realised how much I enjoyed going to Florida with her three times in the late 1980s!
As a closing thought, my most recent friend told me today that this January was the worst one ever for him, due to his worries about finding a job and being able to pay for his car insurance. Although those problems have been solved (at least for the time being), he also, by an interesting coincidence, needs to find a new place to live. I’m not sure whether he’s luckier than I was last year because he doesn’t need to move out urgently on pain of being made homeless, or less lucky because he’s effectively trapped in a household he hates. All I can do is be his friend, go climbing and other activities with him, support him with giving up smoking (the theme of addiction is one I’ll hopefully cover in this blog — yes, there are things I really ought to give up for Lent, and I don’t mean pizza and caffeinated drinks!) and forward him job notifications from my workplace. And so, even though I could probably never repay the friends I’ve listed above for all the help they’ve given me, perhaps I can still “play it forward” and, by helping him, give something back to the human spirit…