'You lived in Africa. Did you live in a mud hut?'
These are the first words that she spoke to me. Our friendship didn't have the greatest of starts and I didn't do much to make her feel more at ease. I think the following sentence she uttered to me was 'what are you doing for father's day?' to which I bluntly replied "my dad's dead!". Yep, awkward! And yet these two eleven year old girls would go on to be the very best of friends. My friend 'Becci' (as she liked to spell it when we were kids) and I really have never had much in common. We're opposites. When she was into pop, I was into rock, when she was ordering her big mac, I was waiting for my fillet-o-fish, when she was out late thinking up tall tales to tell her folks, I was heading home early calling my mother along the way. Like chalk and cheese, always, but always completely drawn to one another. I think of us less as chalk and cheese and more like cheese and chutney, perfect accompaniments.
Our friendship is one of ebbs and flows, there are no fallings out but there are gaps and times when we're out of touch but somehow one of us gets that hankering for the other and gets back in touch again and it feels just like it always has. And then we laugh, really laugh, even at the sad stuff. She is the first person that taught me to laugh at myself. I think I was quite intense at times when I was growing up, I think the 'my dad's dead' comment testifies to that! But what I loved about this petite rocket of a friend of mine was that she just wasn't the type to sit around feeling sorry for herself, she was a do-er, a master planner, a daredevil and I needed that type of person in my life. I really see that now.
On the occasions where bouncers on doors were racist to me and wouldn't let me into clubs, I would feel incredibly angry and frustrated and she would shrug it off and immediately come up with a new plan of where we were headed to. She never allowed the racism to even be an issue, it was just about us having a good night. At the time, I sometimes felt she wasn't taking the issue seriously enough but it really was the best cure for me, she essentially scooped me up and decided there would be no feeling sorry, there was too much fun to be had. She got me into scrapes I never would have got myself into, like the time she'd driven us into the city centre when she'd only just passed her test. She tried parking in a small space and got stuck and between tears and laughter, she convinced me to find someone off the street to get her out of the space. We were seventeen.
She is the one who always made me sleep next to the wall where the radiator was, the many times I slept over at her house and as compensation for burning myself she would give me 'kanga's', cuddling up to me like she was the mama kangaroo. That was kinda cute and hilarious about us too since I am and always have been twice the height and width of her! Like I say, opposites! One of her parents favourite images of the two of us, was of my chocolate toes sticking out of the bottom of the bed that we shared and her milk bottle toes sticking out alongside mine. You can insert a soundtrack for us here and it could be 'Ebony and Ivory'.
When we were at secondary school, which is where we met as eleven year olds, she would often walk a short distance and go home for lunch. One day, she hadn't turned up for school and I suspected that she had executed her plan. Her plan being to convince her mother that she had left for school, whereby she would hide nearby, watch for her mother to leave for work and then sneak back into the house. So, on this special day, when lunchtime arrived I decided to go and investigate. Of course, I found her at home because her plan had worked! I was feeling blue since I'd found out that day that Jonathan Coleman, the boy that I liked at the time, would only go out with other christians (I wasn't a christian at the time!) and I was heartbroken. So, we decided that we were both 'unwell'. Being unwell meant raiding the pantry and getting as much junk food as possible and sitting and eating it whilst watching 'Neighbours' which was very popular at the time. What we didn't expect to happen, was to hear the key in the door! Becky immediately came up with a plan, 'lie on the sofa and look ill!' With chocolate around my mouth and food wrappers scattered across the room, it was quite evident we were just bunking off school. I'll never forget the car journey with Becky's mum dropping me back home. We got off lightly, she had threatened to march us back into school! The funny thing is, it was years before Becky's mum realised that it wasn't a one off, that Beck had been working her plan for a while.
When we were at college and aged sixteen and seventeen, I had double philosophy on a friday afternoon and Becky had a single english lesson followed by free periods. Every week she would nag me to skip philosophy and sometimes she would convince me, because that's what friends do, especially when you're seventeen. Yesterday when we were catching up on the phone after a couple of years of being out of touch, all of these memories and experiences came flooding back. I feel so blessed to have had and to have again, this special relationship. She reminded me of so many events and people and places that I thought were long buried, long forgotten. She reminded me of a me that I couldn't find and one that I am happy to have unearthed once more. Whilst we were on the phone yesterday, out of nowhere, I suddenly heard her say 'hang on Kate, one of the chickens has escaped'! Followed by dramatic commands to said chicken to return. Right then, I pictured her, with her long manicured fingernails and her delicate frame, chasing a chicken with chicken poop on her fabulous shoes and it was just the perfect picture of my best friend. And just in case you didn't know, there's always time to miss double philosophy on a friday afternoon, you might just learn life's greater lesson or at the very least, how to get out of a tight spot!