No friends

May 23rd, 2011 | By | Category: Ministry

It is a blustery spring afternoon on the coast of Co Wicklow; the gale force westerly winds skim the tops off the waves creating hundreds of white horses that line the horizon.  Having no car, there is no option to drive up to the village of Enniskerry to sit at a coffee shop and right the wrongs of the world; the only option is to sit here to wait for a lift home.

A park bench at the water’s edge is not such a bad place to watch the day and the little town of Greystones is a haven of quiet sleepiness compared to the chaos and hostility of the centre of Dublin, where the visit of an American president means inconvenient people are swept aside ahead of the great bandwagon.  ‘I would like to go to Grafton Street’, I said to the garda.

‘You can’t cross College Green or Dame Street’, he said.

Twenty minutes shuffling along amongst crowds of people trying to go about their daily business brought me nowhere. I had turned back and walked down the Quays and bought a ticket to the country.

Sitting on this bench, there is warmth in the May sunshine.  The mobile modem connects the notebook to the world outside, where another Icelandic ash cloud threatens to cut off the country.  Lines from a Simon and Garfunkel song come to mind.

Old friends, old friends,
Sat on their parkbench like bookends
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
of the high shoes of the old friends

Old friends, winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sunset
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settle like dust on the shoulders of the old friends

Can you imagine us years from today,
Sharing a parkbench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy

Old friends, memory brushes the same years,
Silently sharing the same fears

There is a chill.  It is not the threat of age; I am fifty now, twenty years ago, I was thirty; in twenty years time, should I live so long, I shall be seventy; they are numbers.  It is the prospect of having lived an itinerant life and reaching the parkbench and having no old friends with whom to sit; no-one whom I have known more than a few years; no-one to sit as a counter-balance on the bench in a companionable silence.

The tranquility of the moment is broken.

How terribly strange to be alone.

Where is my lift?

Leave a comment »

  1. The high high price of the itinerant life.
    And those friendships that last tend to be scattered geographically – so they live one, but it’s harder to do the park bench thing on the spur of the moment.

  2. I think the park bench thing is probably only possible in small communities or where people have worked for the same employer for decades. I wonder if it was really possible even in the 1960s New York of Simon and Garfunkel’s early days

  3. Two of us were made redundant a few days ago, as we came out of the meeting where we were told the news my colleague said, ‘do you know what the worst thing is, that we shan’t work together anymore…’

  4. There is a kind of bereavement in realizing that you are not going to see people again.

  5. Yes that’s the worst thing. people whose company and banter and whatever else you’ve taken for granted over the years.

Leave Comment