which can bind us together.
My friend Jane has been telling us how her son is going to have to say a physical goodbye to his best friend. His best friend is going back to Australia. Her son will be staying in England. There will be a long way between them. They are not that old. Things will change.
My brother had a friend in primary school with whom he shared many things. When we moved they did not write letters to one another. Boys rarely do. But, for the next six years, they sent tapes to one another. These were made on old reel-to-reel tape recorders. From memory the sound quality was not wonderful but they talked to one another in this way. This was done in the days before cassette tape recorders were common, before long distance telephone calls were cheap and long before the internet, e-mail or skype were thought of.
Eventually one of the tape recorders did not function. They finished school and followed different career paths. My brother moved to the other side of Australia and they lost contact.
It is, I suspect, the story of many childhood friendships - even some of those which seem to be "forever". There are a few rare and precious friendships which last beyond that.
I suspect they come from much more stable backgrounds than ours. We moved too many times to make close friendships. As "the head's kids" (my father was the school principal) we had almost no chance of making close friendships. The lad my brother was friendly with was an exception. One of his sisters is still friendly with one of mine. It is the only school based friendship which remains for any of us.
It may be different now with the internet, with e-mail, with skype or other functions. A long distance telephone call is no longer a complicated matter of booking a call and wondering how to get everything in to three minutes. My extended clan will no doubt use mobile telephones to talk to family around Australia on Christmas Day.
I was reminded of all this because there was a death notice in today's paper for someone we knew. Peter's death was not unexpected. He had leukaemia and we knew he was back in hospital. I feel sad for his family but Peter was simply exhausted.
The last time I saw him was at our front door. He came to see if my father felt as if he was still up to delivering the Neighbourhood Watch newsletters for the three streets he has delivered in since he ceased to be Area Coordinator more than fifteen years ago. It was typically thoughtful of Peter. I told Peter I would do it if Dad felt he could not do it. He nodded, thanked me and then went down the side of the house to my father's workshop. I have no idea what they talked about but I could hear laughter out in the shed. It was something that happened once every so often. Each enjoyed the company of the other.
When I told my father that the death notice was in the paper this morning he was silent for a moment and then sighed and said, "He was a good man. There were always good words between us."
Peter was young enough to be my father's son but there was a rope of words between them. Good words make good ropes. Good ropes make good friendships.