The moustache on the stairs
I can’t remember what sort of day it was, or for that matter what time of the year it was; I just know, in the time it takes to pass someone on a flight of stairs my life had changed for ever.
I remember thinking at the time, with his droopy moustache it was Sergeant Pepper; this meeting can only have been a short while after the record had come out.
HE, as I will refer to him, for a while at least, had been for a job at the printers I already worked at, it had not long moved to bigger premises and with a change of name had moved up in the world of small offset printing, we printed anything and everything; I was the camera operator looking to manage the plate making department. As a young man life was full of fun things every day, and work was that interlude each day, between getting up in the morning and going out in the evening, the bit that meant you had money in your pocket. The boys were a good bunch, we worked together all day, then spent most evenings together, one coffee house in Surbiton in particular was the place we changed the world on a regular bases in, one cup of coffee would last us for hours if the owner or manager wasn’t in, if he was, one of us would have to buy a cheese omelette and chips at four shillings, it was the only way to stop them moaning at the amount of room we took up. Art, music, religion, literature, it was all there except politics, but then politics was only ever mentioned anywhere when there was an election looming.
Where HE had worked before he came to us I can’t remember; HE was one of those people who seemed to always have been there, the mustache was soon gone, I on the other hand started to grow a beard, which was to become a life’s work. HE had about him an air of mischief, elfin innocents that drew you to him, what with the mummifying, of one of the younger lads, or at least the bandaging of him with seventy two yards of sellotape, and the paper dart made from an aluminium printing plate some three feet long, which we fired from a window across Kingston, without a thought as to what it would do when it came back to earth. HE had this almost uncontrollable desire to share, music, knowledge, anything and everything that life was about, his middle name was Kimble; I always took this to be, as in Kipling’s Kim, Little friend of all the world.
At this time HE lived in Richmond which was in the other direction to the rest of us at Creative offset, so he rarely came with us in the evening. At work the days were filled with music, no form was missed from Pink Floyd to Sidney Bechet calling at all Shankar and the Prunes on the way. As happens with life, you move on. I worked with him again at the boat house, a printer’s on the river Thames at Teddington where I had worked once before. HE had been a bit of a shock to the people who worked there in the beginning, being a lot younger than most of them. By this time HE had married, and now it was time for him and his wife to take their adventure to the mountains of Wales, this was the last I saw of him for many years. We wrote letters now and then, HE would write in ever decreasing circles making me, the reader turn the letter round and round as I read. After one such letter, that I was taking a while to answer, I received a straight forward letter which said only this ‘He who fails to reply will receive a fried egg in the post’ and I knew that I would, and replied there and then, on another occasion I was lying in bed one Saturday morning when my then wife came in to the bedroom with a letter, with great glee I opened the envelope and pulled out the letter and filled the room, the air and bed with baby powder, the letter was announcing the birth of his first daughter.
Forty years have passed since that day on the stairs; the mists of time have kept us apart for many of them, the spark that flashed between us that day has always remained bright, and with today’s technology, we write each day by email, and he still remains the mischievous elf and Little friend of all the world.
To Ray and Brenda Owen (HE)
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Chris Ricketts.
Published on e-Stories.org on 15.12.2014.