DUNCAN

No not me, my best mate since 1959…

DuncanSaturday morning. A short walk down Pinner High Street, and I was right on the scene for the best time of the week. Meeting friends outside Woolworth’s to show off our new jeans or oblique chisels, and to put our cigarettes carefully in the corner of our mouths for maximum effect. Laughing loudly at nothing in particular to prove that we were having a good time. Calling out cheeky remarks to girls who tottered past on newly bought high heels. The weekend had begun.

My dear old friend John Cleaver (or Joanna Cleavage as we preferred to call him) had dropped into my home one day to tell me that he had got involved with a clique. I was fascinated, since I had been away at boarding school since I was eight, and consequently hadn’t got any friends apart from him in Pinner ( or anywhere else for that matter.) Strutting about in an ill-fitting suit and a thoroughly unsuitable tie, he began to describe this exciting group of people who had taken him into their coterie. There was Gordon, who looked and sang exactly like Elvis. (He got to number one with that singing five years later in 1964.) There was Perry and Robin, two constantly battling brothers, the latter of which I started a design studio with in later years. There was Carol, who was the most fascinating person I had ever met up to then, who I married much later – but that’s another story. Suffice to say she was the subject of all my rude thoughts for years to come. There was Graham, a dear friend I regularly see still – who is the king of the Isle of Wight. There was Dave, an ace guitarist. There was another Dave, who smoked Gauloise and roared around on a motorbike in heroic fashion.

And…there was Duncan. The sweetest friendliest person I had ever met, knocking spots off the pond life I had had to put up with at my awful public school. We became friends very quickly and were equally responsible for finding the right parties to go to (one every Saturday almost without fail.) We suffered the same total disasters with girls, and the occasional triumphs with same, and the same stupid sense of humour. When I told him once that I thought I was losing my mind because I talked to myself, he replied “That’s nothing. I tell myself jokes.” Hmmm…

Deep into the night we would record daft stories with sound effects on Lynn’s tape recorder, which we once plugged into the mains when the battery ran out. Only once. We were jolly lucky that our audio version of Ben Hur wasn’t lost for good. (It is now, for very good…) Later on we recorded many songs deep into different nights and I discovered recently, twelve years ago, that I still had these timeless classics, and had them remastered onto CDs. I proudly presented Duncan with his copy, but he complained that (A) I’d made myself look really groovy on the cover, and he looked like a little dumpy curly haired thing. (I said “So?”) and (B) that I had included all my vocals and very few of his. But he played (and I use the word reservedly) the guitar on all of them for God’s sake…so that’s gratitude I must say.

And a million other moments that have made up a friendship that has survived and thoroughly enjoyed the test of time. Gordon once said “whenever I see Dunc I just want to cuddle him.” He should have said that when Duncan’s Morris Minor fell apart when he was actually sitting in it.

I got a phone call from the subject of this in-depth article just before Christmas to tell me that if we didn’t meet in the next ten days it would be the first year since 1959 that we hadn’t got together. The result was a wonderful dinner at the Criterion in Piccadilly with my gorgeous Cathy, our kids, and Duncan’s new love, a Ukrainian beauty called Svetlana. By Jove, if we’d found women of that quality at those distant early-sixties parties we would have been the talk of the clique, and would probably have boasted of our triumphs to everyone outside Woolworth’s for at least four Saturdays.

Be happy. Treasure friends. It’s a great way to go through life.