Thursday, 17 September 2009

Good Friends I’ve Lost

One of the great benefits of having breast cancer (yes there are many – I will compile a list!) is that I have an iron clad excuse to get back into contact with friends that I’ve lost along the way.

The reasons that I’ve lost these friends are varied and usually trivial. The consequence of that is that the damage can not easily be repaired because it is too embarrassing for either party to mention the cause.

A good case in point is my friend Wanda. We got on so well and had lots of fun and then we fell out and didn’t speak to one another for several years. A couple of weeks ago we had lunch at the Electric. In the years since I've seen her Wanda has got married. I missed that. It was such a gas to spend hours stuffing our faces and taking the piss out of one another and everyone we know. I couldn’t even think of what had happened to cause the rift. I can only guess that whatever it was it must have been all Wanda’s fault because she picked up the bill for lunch.*

I’ve had calls and emails from friends in Australia and the USA that I usually only speak to once a year. I’ve received messages from all my far flung family around the world. I am convinced that love and prayers really do work in the process of healing.

But some people cannot be found, or at least I don’t know how to find them. The person on my mind at the moment was my friend more than twenty-five years ago. Her name is Lesley Shallcross, a.k.a. ‘Kash.’ We squatted together in run-down council flats where we lived on fags and barbiturates. We drank whisky whilst watching B movies at the Scala. We drank Pernod and Blacks whilst taking sleeping pills at the Mud Club and Heaven. Kash was from Lancashire. She had jet black hair that she bouffed and teased and sprayed into a towering beehive. She wore bright pink lipstick and always carried a battleship-sized patent leather handbag. She had the great skill of finding a person’s insecurity with laser precision and then mercilessly exploiting it to great comic effect. Amy Winehouse has enormous panache but she doesn’t hold a candle to Kash.

I come across a facebook page called ‘In Loving Memory of the Mud Club’ with a picture of Philip Sallon dressed as the Pope. Trawling through the names I encounter a couple of other long lost friends. I add them as my facebook friends. There are a lot of names I don't recognise. Probably later habitués. The truth is, the Mud club lasted a lot longer than I did. Kash is not there.

I do a facebook search but I’m not sure whether to search for ‘Lesley’ or ‘Leslie’ or ‘Kash.’ I enter ‘Shallcross.’ There are more than 500 of them, many in and around Manchester. I find a young woman named Lily Shallcross. Is it possible that Kash and I drifted apart but she kept a fond spot alive all those years and then named her daughter after me? I flatter myself. I come across two more youthful Lily Shallcrosses. Is it possible that she had three daughters and named them all Lily?

Maybe she got married and changed her name. Maybe she is dead. Maybe she is not on facebook. Does anyone know?

Then, there it is. Lesley Shallcross. I look at the picture of a middle-aged woman dressed in a mother-of-the-bride ensemble. I look hard. Remove the wire frame glasses and she’s quite pretty. It is possible that Kash developed a taste for dinky little earrings. It is possible that she cut and coloured her hair into a short, blonde, flicky style. But I am certain that it’s not her. Never in a million years would Kash wear a hat from John Lewis.

*Just in case you’re not entirely sure, I was being facetious there. Thank you Wanda for your generosity and friendship. I’m sorry that I was mean to you and criticised your driving.


sally said...

I have for a long tome kept my eye open for my best high school friend Susan McCarthy. So I was inspired to look on Facebook. I have inspected 150 of the 359 Susan McCarthys - one of them seems to be a cat - Susan did smile like a cat - and I realise if she were looking for me
1) I've changed my name
2) She wouldn't recognise me
and the same applies to her, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

We had lunch about a year ago at the top of Portobello Road and we kept arranging to meet and it never happened. (two weeks ago wasn't the first time)It was always me that made up after our fights and we fell out because you kept on putting your feet on the dash board of my friends car and called it 'a death trap' of a car and I thought you were being 'grandiose' and spent too much money all the time. Shame we never worked it out back then but I think it was because we were both very strong personalities and we started to clash. You're a great lady Jess, with great taste and style and I wish you well and it was lovely seeing you for lunch a couple of weeks ago. Love Wx