Quite frankly, I am at pains as to where to begin …  I love the English language of old.  So much more expressive in the wake of the colloquial two-dimensional drivel of today.  It’s been more than two weeks since my last post – of which I have just reminded myself – and no further words have been uttered about the ‘fallen hero’ Huw Edwards.  Interesting.  Seems the tactical sympathy vote worked and, in this hideous new world of woke hysteria, mental health is fast becoming the vindication for so much.  However, as Shakespeare before me, I believe that one’s conscience shall be the ultimate judge …  ‘Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all’.  (Hamlet) The modern-day karma, there is no escaping the voice in one’s head – a comforting thought for those unfairly wronged!

Wimbledon.  Grateful I wasn’t there, really.  The changing of the guard in so many ways, I think it lost its way this year and the results brought little joy – to Andy, Shapovalov, Rune, Djokovic or me!  Best to forget and move on.  Always the benchmark of my summer, however, things have only descended further.  The weather?!  If the rain be God’s tears, he is utterly miserable – like so many!  The summer months were to be a deserving respite for the longest of winters; some much-needed sunshine, warmth and joy to store for what lies ahead.  Not to be.  Meanwhile, Rome boils in temperatures in their 40s.  As though the whole world is being punished.  Perhaps, then, we should take stock, or have we come too far to rewind?  To go back to times of innocence … kindness; to families, security; consideration for others rather than egos and envy.  A lesson in self-destruction.

Manny will say this is too depressing.  That, it may be, but it is honest.  Cathartic too, in a way, putting thoughts into words.  However, the reason for my voluntary hiatus is far from depressing.  As one who has been accused in the past of being unable to move on – wrongly, I might add, and by those with a personal agenda – I have spent the last two weeks or more catching up with old friends whom I haven’t seen for years.  Friends from childhood and university days, one I hadn’t seen for thirty-six years!  Annual Christmas cards and the odd phone call at most, the passing years are of little consequence for that bond remains.  Mark, I hadn’t seen each other for seventeen years but we go back, way back!  Pony Club camps, gymkhanas, teenage parties, weddings, babies … the lot!  Losing touch when I moved ‘back home’, a chance encounter prompted me to write him a letter (that’s handwritten words on a piece of paper, sealed in an envelope, stamped and posted!) to which he responded.  I picked up the phone and we promised to have lunch – which we did, twice.  Awkward?  No.  Old friends are old friends.  Forget the passing of time, a shared history is all that matters.  A reminder, though, of the loss of innocence.  Life deals some heavy blows.

The very next week, I met ‘Peggy’ and David – her husband I have never met – at the JiggerThirty-six years later!  ‘Peggy’, I met in 1981.  We went on holiday together that summer, to the Algarve – when it was still unspoilt.  Albufeira, a quiet little fishing village, and beautiful, empty beaches stretching for miles.  We walked up a sandy track, for goodness sake, to get to our little apartment!  Those memories remain.  The shared humour is imperative but life has certainly taken us on different paths.  Thirty-six years later, that doesn’t matter.  We became friends for a reason and that reason remains.  In a world which doesn’t care, that makes me smile.   Re-affirms my faith in humanity; re-affirms my faith in the old.  For there is nothing like old friends.  Friends who knew you way back when.  Shared history.  Shared memories.  Nothing can replace those.  The bond remains.

Still on the subject of all things old, we went to see Rod Stewart at the Castle on the 7th July.  A long-time fan of his music, I have always wanted to see him in concert but I hate stadiums.  Seventy-eight years old, now, it was time to bite the bullet – and he didn’t let me down.  Arrogant as ever – and well he might be – his voice didn’t falter.  Like listening to one of my old albums, he sang hit after hit appealing to young and old with a catalogue which spans the decades.  Supported, as ever, by his harem of loyal women – both in his band and his backing singers – perhaps his need for numerous costume changes, each more sparkly than the last, were the only reminder of his advancing years.  For once, the heavens were kind as we, along with the thousands around us, revelled in two hours of unapologetic nostalgia and, after a rousing rendition of ‘Sailing’ – for which his ninety-four-year-old sister joined him on stage – he was gone.  No ‘Thank you’, ‘Goodnight’ or ‘Goodbye’.  No encore.  ‘The principal would like to leave the stage … The crowd don’t understand.’  He didn’t sing I Was Only Joking – my favourite – nor The Killing of Georgie but, in the end, it didn’t matter.  One of a kind, I suspect this tour may be his last hurrah.  An absolute privilege, and one of the best parts for me?  Being reminded by Becca and Manny just why they know and love most of his songs …  I used to blast them out in my old Golf everywhere, kids in the back, all singing at the tops of our voices.  Memories are made of hits!  I taught them well.

This past weekend, I took the train to York en route to stay with another old friend going back to childhood.  We spent our formative teenage years together and in August 1976 – she, seventeen, me, sixteen – our parents saw fit to let us drive up to Aviemore for a long weekend of fun.  Were they nuts?!  No mobile phones, no nothing, they had no idea what we were up to.  Or, maybe they did, for we were nothing if not innocent!  Discos every night, in our denim, cheesecloth and platforms, we were dancing to the Number One at the time, Dancing Queen …  Fast forward forty-seven years – I repeat, forty-seven years – and this weekend we were doing the very same.  Given two tickets to ABBA Voyage in London for her Birthday, it seemed fitting that we go together.  An amazing experience, of course, it was emotional for those songs are intrinsic to our youth.  ABBA captivated the world and touched our souls along the way.  Their genius lay/lies in unforgettable melodies coupled with lyrics of universal appeal.  They allowed us to share their journey and their well-documented heartache; we lived it all with them.  So it is that the crowds flock in their thousands to ‘see’ them as they were in their heyday.  Forever young.  The concept is phenomenal, the music superb.  Once again, pure nostalgia.  So popular today.  Wonder why?!

Dancing Queen was their ‘final’ song but … The Winner Takes It All was the encore.  Not a dry eye in the house.  So … the point of it all?  Clearly, going back is the new future.  Move on?  Why would you when old friends, old music and memories shared mean so much.  I consider myself lucky.  Always have.

Times of joy and times of sorrow
We will always see it through.
Oh, I don’t care what comes tomorrow
We can face it together
The way old friends do.’

ABBA, The Way Old Friends Do.

This is Trish, signing off.