‘Pick­ing up where we left off was easy’

Woman (UK) - - Life Today -

He­len Col­lier, 54, lives with her hus­band Phil, 51, and daugh­ter Grace, 19, in South wales.

The first time I saw Alex she was skip­ping across the hop­scotch chalks in in­fant school. ‘Come and play, He­len!’ she called out, beck­on­ing me to join. Just like that, a life­long friend­ship be­gan.

It was the 1960s and grow­ing up in the South Wales val­leys there wasn’t an aw­ful lot to do. But in Alex I found my per­fect part­ner-in-crime.

We were for­ever get­ting up to mis­chief. I’ll never for­get the day we climbed the trees out­side my par­ents’ house, and shook the branches when some­body walked past. The ex­pres­sions on their faces as they looked up had us in fits of laugh­ter. We were so naughty!

Alex will tell you I was the ring­leader, but she was al­ways there by my side egging me on. That’s what I loved about her. She was such fun.

Be­fore long, she be­came an ex­tended part of the fam­ily. Mum would au­to­mat­i­cally set a place for her at the ta­ble, and we even in­vited her on our fam­ily holidays.

By the time we went to

sec­ondary school in 1974, she was my clos­est con­fi­dante. When my mum Mariel was di­ag­nosed with breast cancer in 1975, Alex was the only per­son I felt I could turn to.

To­gether we ticked off so many im­por­tant ex­pe­ri­ences, like go­ing to our first con­cert and even hav­ing our first beer.

We’d spend hours talk­ing about the boys we liked (and the girls we didn’t), and what we wanted to be­come when we were older. ‘I’d like to be a nurse,’ Alex said once. I told her she’d be bril­liant at it.

Although our lives nat­u­rally took dif­fer­ent paths af­ter school, we still re­mained close. Then, when I was 21, Mum lost her bat­tle with cancer. I was dev­as­tated, but Alex was there to pick up the pieces.

Im­me­di­ately, she came home from Swansea where she was study­ing to be­come a nurse. For the rest of the week she barely left my side. Her sup­port was in­cred­i­ble.

When she asked me to be her brides­maid in 1987 I was hon­oured. But while Alex set­tled down and started a fam­ily, I moved to Lon­don to work as an air host­ess for Bri­tish Cale­do­nian. Back then there were no mo­bile phones, no so­cial me­dia, and we quickly lost con­tact.

A few years later I met my hus­band Phil and moved back to South Wales. In 1998, our daugh­ter Grace was born.

Soon, 20 years had gone by since I’d spo­ken to Alex. I’d of­ten think of her, and re­count our an­tics at din­ner par­ties.

Then one day in 2009 I re­ceived a text mes­sage from an un­known num­ber. I saw Alex’s name signed off at the end and I couldn’t be­lieve it.

Alex ex­plained that for the past year she’d been go­ing to the same hair­dressers as me. At first, our stylist didn’t clock that we knew each other un­til she started telling him about the mis­chief we got up to as chil­dren. He gave Alex my num­ber, and she’d text me straight away.

We ar­ranged to go for din­ner. Although I wor­ried that it might be awk­ward, once we started rem­i­nisc­ing the years just melted away. Alex was ex­actly as I re­mem­bered her. She even had the same laugh.

It felt won­der­ful to have that deep sense of per­sonal his­tory with some­one.

De­spite our hec­tic lives, we were de­ter­mined to carry on meet­ing. It be­came eas­ier when Alex’s youngest son flew the nest in 2015 and I re­tired. Now we text most days, and go run­ning ev­ery week. We even get our hair done to­gether.

I’ve never had a friend like Alex. Af­ter ev­ery­thing we’ve been through, she un­der­stands me bet­ter than any­one else. I’m sad we lost con­tact, but I can ap­pre­ci­ate why it hap­pened. The im­por­tant thing is that we’ve found each other again and I know that with Alex I’ve got a friend for life.

‘THE YEARS JUST MELTED AWAY’

He­len and Alex have been through so much to­gether

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