Forty years ago this week, lucky travellers on the Liverpool Street Line were treated to the sight of Ma and I manoeuvring a sizeable, empty metal trunk on and off the train. I was about to start at Exeter and the trunk would soon be sent ahead with all that I considered precious: radio/cassette player, gold table-lamp with orange shade and books from the reading list, some of which still sit on my shelves, spines barely creased.
Pa being Pa, he’d researched the best place to buy a trunk – presumably looking at the library’s copy of Which Trunk magazine – which led us to The Houndsditch Warehouse. I chose the large trunk which for years to come would act as both luggage and useful coffee table, when covered with a tasteful purple dhurrie and adorned with orange shaded table-lamp.
We brought the trunk home in the car, only then realising that we’d no means of unlocking it. No keys. Pa telephoned the Warehouse, who needed us to take the trunk back again so that they could give us the correct keys. In those days, neither Ma nor I drove and, of course, shops only opened office hours. (Do you remember – John Lewis used to close on a Saturday afternoon? Can you imagine!) Hence, the next day, Ma and I chuckle-brothered it to Houndsditch and back by public transport.
The trunk went. I went. And the following week saw me sitting, new stationery at the ready, in my first tutorial with Dr Henderson.
The angels were smiling on me that day. I didn’t yet know that the lass opposite was DearHeart, the best friend a girl could have. She’s walked the ups and downs with me ever since. Together, we tackled all the weighty problems of student life: communicating when our rooms were above each other’s in Hall (answer – box for messages tied on string and lowered from upper window when lower ceiling banged with broom handle); getting to the launderette in the snows of ‘77 during the Great Welly Shortage (answer – bin bags tied over jeans at knee); deciding which of two puddings to cook for dinner party (answer – both).
When I hobbled home from hospital with the new InfantPhenomenon, she was there. When I had to face leaving Thrush Woods after twenty one years, she was there. And when I was diagnosed with PD, she braved the websites that I couldn’t and hared down from the People’s Republic of Yorkshire clutching print-outs to straighten the muddle in my head.
We’ve been together now for Forty Years. Definitely not a day too much. DearHeart, here’s to You, to Me and to Best Friends Everywhere!