I visited a very old friend of mine on Saturday July 4th!

With the usual bottle of red wine in hand I arrived in the beautiful Cotswold village of Painswick near Stroud to visit someone I had known most of my adult life.

churchMany people will think me mad for placing such emphasis on my annual visit to my friend. Why? Because he sleeps peacefully in the Cemetery overlooking the undulating Gloucestershire countryside. His memorial service was held in the towns wonderful little church. You see he suddenly died ten years ago! I was truly devastated.

Richard Wells was a special friend. Why special? Well firstly because he was always prepared to listen to my latest mad idea for a start!

“I’ve been thinking Rich” I would often start our conversation! “If we do this or that we’ll clean up”.

Richard, who was a successful lawyer and older and wiser than me never put me down or gave off negatives but always give balanced counsel about the merits of my latest idea.

I just ‘knew’ he was on my side. Friends are people that are there for you, regardless of whether they think you’re right! They tell you what they ‘really’ think, even if sometimes you don’t want to hear it, but essentially they are on your side. It’s wonderful to know that no matter what, as James Taylor said in one of his songs “you’ve got a friend”

I had my usual chat with Richard’s spirit – much as we did when he was in physical form. Before taking my leave and winding my way down through the beautiful Slad valley with the roof down on my new Mercedes SL 500 thinking how both of our lives had intertwined in a rich tapestry of alternatives and options over the years since our first meeting many years before when my life was very different than it is today. Richard saw something in that boy from the wrong side of the tracks that he believed in. He believed as I did that anything is possible and most things probable with positive thought.

That belief gave me great encouragement. Even when things didn’t always go according to plan he continued to believe. That was so empowering.

Richard isn’t the only old friend I have, but he was one who remains special. He will never be forgotten by me regardless of the passing years hence my annual visit on July 4th, usually with Leon who just couldn’t make it this year, although I know he will pop in to see our old friend during the next week of two.

Perhaps one day Richard and I will sit together in heaven (I hope I will eventually get there too, rather than the other place!) having a chin wag just like the old days?

I’m in no rush mind! But eventually I would be happy joining Richard in a ‘cloud’ based conversation (No Apple, I don’t mean you) It would make a change from his old office in Baldwin Street, Bristol, where we would frequently meet when we were both young men with places to go!

As I say friends are important. “To have one you must firstly be one” which is why my close friend Barry Charman is someone I hold dear and who has remained steadfast over many years.

Barry is a bit of an oddball really! Not ‘odd’ you understand! Just an ‘oddball’, in as much as he doesn’t obey convention. He is certainly a one off and has never lost his enthusiasm for life, something that is apparent in all successful people I meet.

I was chatting to him the other day when he started to tell me about his recent hip operation! “I had a local anaesthetic so I could see what’s going on, and it’s quicker to recover anyway” he told me! Only Barry would want to be awake to witness a chunk being cut off his hipbone! Sorry Baz but I just had to ring off at that point. Fainting while driving isn’t a good idea!

Barry and I have had a go at a few things over the years, including in the early 1970s, exporting upright pianos to Africa, don’t ask! We were young.

Friends really do matter and as I say “To receive friendship you must firstly give it” both Richard and Barry understand and understood that and give/gave of themselves without expecting a return. That in itself makes them both unusual.

There are many other people that I am close to too – proper people who understand what genuine friendship is all about. Perhaps that is the true meaning of the quote from the bible “Give and you shall receive”?

I always think that kindness is a strength not a weakness. As The Dalai Lama says…”Wherever possible be kind. It is always possible”.

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