My friend and me.

“You’ll be sharing a room with Lesley, I’m sure you’ll get on well.” Those words, spoken by the Superintendent of a Dr Barnardo’s home in Sussex, marked the beginning of a lifelong friendship. 

We were two seventeen year old girls, away from home for the first time. I, for one, had never shared a room before, as I was the only girl in our family. I don’t remember the first moment we met, but I do remember being terrified of getting lost in the huge manor house which was now my home. I spent days following my new friend around, or getting in a panic in case I couldn’t  find my way back to our room, or to the nursery to which I’d been assigned. I’m sure she must have got really fed up with me saying “Which way is the dining room / the laundry / the kitchen?”

When I came back to our room after my first day of work, Lesley was already there, and I think that was when our friendship really started. She told me she was engaged to a local boy, and that he was away on HMS Ark Royal. She showed me his photographs, and, as seventeen year old girls do, we talked about him, and the boyfriend I’d left behind in Hampshire, for hours. I remember the luxury of being able to talk, uninhibited by adults telling us to stop talking about boys!

Within days, we were reading bits of love letters to each other, and I was helping her through the dramas that were caused by the BFPO postal system. It was something like a postal version of the ketchup rhyme, “Shake the bottle, shake the bottle, none’ll come and then a lot’ll”. Letters would fly back and forth, sometimes out of synch, and misunderstandings would arise because of that, and because of his natural worries that she might meet somebody else whilst he was away. I’m glad to say that she didn’t meet anyone else. If he’d known how crazy she was about him, he’d never have worried.

In time, I’d write little postscripts to her letters to him, adding kisses of my own…. all in fun, and she’d do the same on my letters.

The great day arrived when he came home. I was on my way to meet my boyfriend, and was just going into Barcombe Mills railway station, when they came out, looking so happy. She introduced us, and he said “You owe me 364 kisses!…. only joking!, but it’s nice to meet you in person at last!” I liked him immediately, and not only because he was one of the handsomest men I’d ever met!

In time they decided to marry. The ceremony was in Woolwich Town Hall, and I travelled up with the very nervous bridegroom. I remember when the Registrar asked him how old he was, he said “I’m 24, no, I’m 25” and his bride had to butt in and tell the Registrar his real age! Afterwards we went back to Lesley’s Dad’s home for a reception, where I had my first taste of Champagne….A bit different to my usual tipple, Babycham!

Over the years, we kept in touch, only seeing each other occasionally, but always enjoying our time together when we did meet. I remember how much our children enjoyed being together, and as they lived in the West country, and that was usually where we spent our holidays, we tried to visit when we were over that way.

When her husband died suddenly, and far too young, My husband and I, on the verge of separating, were abroad on a last trip together. We got off the ferry and drove straight to their home, arriving just in time for the funeral. 

A few weeks later, in need of some comfort myself, I went to stay, and we were immediately back to how we were as teenagers. I’ll always remember that almost her first words to me were “I’ve made up the bed in the spare room, but if you prefer, we can share my room and talk like we used to at Barnardo’s” I chose the second option, and she was right! We were transported back in time, as we talked and laughed just as we had all those years earlier. In the morning, her daughter brought us peanut butter on hot toast, and coffee. Thanks, girls, it was a memorable weekend!

Since then a lot has happened in both our lives. I attended her second wedding reception after her marriage abroad, and have got to know her second husband through a couple of weekend visits and a few flying visits. They were away when I remarried, unfortunately, but then we went to her surprise 60th birthday party.

Today, we are getting together again, and I can’t wait! They are coming here for the weekend, and I’m looking forward to it so much!

Thanks, Lee, for a lifetime of a very much valued friendship.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tania
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 11:25:43

    Ahhh, thats made me all tearful….what a wonderful friendship – you always know who your best friends are – those who you don’t have to see everyday, but those who you know will always be there for you x


  2. elsieshufflebottom
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 22:25:21

    Very true, Tania xxx


  3. Jayrodrigo
    Sep 25, 2017 @ 18:29:01

    What an amazing story and such a great read! The value of a true friendship is timeless


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