At the weekend, I had the great pleasure of meeting up with a friend from my university days who I had not seen for almost a decade.
Paul and I met when I was in my second year at Keele, when he moved into the room upstairs from me. In my first year, that room had been occupied by a guy whose parents lived locally and who was, therefore, almost never there. Having someone move in with their own set of keyboards and a ‘Neighbours’ fixation was, to say the least, a shock. In fact, Paul’s 3am renditions of “I Should Be So Lucky” are singlehandedly responsible for the fact that I am probably one of the few people around who want to stab Kylie Minogue every time I hear it (and I don’t mean with something fleshy).
Despite this, Paul and I swiftly became firm friends. Life around him was certainly never dull and he was the consummate party animal. At one time I pinned a note to his door saying “I think we should try going to bed on the same day that we get up, rather than getting up on the same day that we went to bed”; on another occasion, it simply read “Wake up, time to die”.
On the other hand, he could be surprisingly gullible. I had him convinced for ages that I had ripped the word ‘love’ out of my dictionary, and he so believed that I could cook that he once, along with three other friends, showed up on my doorstep on a Saturday, insisting that I come with them to his Mother’s house in Wales as none of them knew how to make a roast dinner.
For many years, we competed to buy each other the most awful birthday present we could find. I remember buying him a particularly hideous tie (which he wore with pride, disappointingly). Another year, he bought me one of those shopping bags on wheels that you still sometimes see old ladies using (and which my grandmother actually did use) – the effect being added to by the facts that it was made of a particularly horrible tartan fabric and that he gave it to me in a pub.
I am pretty certain that I won that contest though, because the last present I can remember giving hiim was a year’s membership of the Liberal Democrats – at the time, the most useless thing imaginable. For all I know, he is still a member and keeping it quiet, because I am pretty sure that I gave them his bank details as well.