I was at a funeral recently at which I suddenly found myself embracing very old friends from a previous life in a previous century. The weird feeling of being whizzed back to the 1980s only lasted a few minutes – just as long as it took to get over the deep laughter lines, baldness and rather mature (yes I am being kind) look we had all acquired, along with kids, partners, ex partners and mortgages. But once old friends start talking, they morph back to their younger selves and their faces are again the ones I was so familiar with way back when we all worked together.
One of those I was most happy to see was my old partner in crime – a girlfriend with whom I had misspent many years in dark basements on Leeson Street over wildly overpriced bottles of plonk.
I first met E (not even her real initial but I have to protect her identity as she is a very successful business woman now) in the winter of 1982/3 (or it could have been 81/82) when were both working for different holiday companies in the Canary Islands. We hit it off immediately and I can honestly say that E was the very best of craic – one of the most ‘up for it’ mad women I have ever had the pleasure of hanging out with. And I have had quite a coterie of mad women in my life thus far, let me tell you. After that memorable winter together we both came back to Dublin where we continued to work in the travel business.
Dublin was a dull and dingy place in the mid 1980s but the few spots of colour that did exist is where we would generally be found; from pubs on Baggot Street to the Pink Elephant and the ubiquitous Leeson Street clubs out of which we eventually fell in the predawn hours to get into different taxis as we lived on opposite sides of the city. E is the only person I know who never (and I mean never) had an uneventful journey home in the taxi. I would share some of the stories but I am saving them for the book! Suffice to say that the sure knowledge that the last bit of craic occurred without me meant that after a lie on in the morning after I couldn’t wait to phone her to hear what had unfolded.
As the other last century friends fell away outside the church in the weak Spring sunshine, me and E did the usual “we must catch up over lunch or maybe dinner soon” and she looked at me with something that was a cross between shame, embarrassment and fear. “I don’t really drink anymore” she said apologetically. “Oh my God, neither do I” I replied and expanded that I haven’t had a drink since Christmas Eve.
“I just couldn’t deal with the hangovers anymore” E said.
“Me neither. I could lose two days to migraine like headaches that rendered me completely unable to operate”
“Right well, we still eat, right? We can still meet up.”
And we will.
And I can’t wait. Because it wasn’t the drink that made E funny. The funny was all hers. It wasn’t the just fact that we were both often drunk that made world seemed like a brighter, madder place full of all kinds of possibilities for fun. At least I don’t think it was.
It was the expectation of the madness that was the best. The giddy anticipation of our nights out together. Well that and the hysterical laughter that often rendered both of us incapable of speech. I am so proud of each of the lines around my eyes and my mouth. Sure they make me look old – especially first thing in the morning. But they are a reminder of all the good times, all the laughs. Of course there were some tears too but from this distance I remember more tears of laughter than sadness. And quite a few of those lines I acquired from hanging out with E.
Soon we will sit in a café or restaurant in town, looking I am sure like two reasonably sensible middle aged women having a chat. The only giveaway to our real selves will be the raucous laughter. And that will be without the wine…. Well…. probably without wine… but you never know.