My Farthest Friend

Who of your friends lives the farthest away?

The friend who lives the farthest away from me is Michelle, who lives in Kingston in Canada.

We have known each other since we were about 10 years old and we were at the same music course one week in the middle of Derbyshire. Michelle played cornet for Moston and Beswick Band and I played for Blackley Band, which even though the two bands were near neighbours you could say that there was a certain amount of mild hostility between the outfits (for some reason) and so for us to come from different bands and yet get on as friends is a testament to the fact that kids just get on with it and that me and Michelle were on the same wavelength.

During the week we were away we got into several scrapes, including successfully and progressively winding up the older boys in the billiard room (yes, the country house we were staying in had its own billiard room!). We also played the odd practical joke on each other and the rest of the group the best of which was to make up a story that a certain bend on the back staircase was haunted and if you happened to stand on it without thinking then the GHOST would jump out at you and PUSH YOU DOWN THE STAIRS!!!!! We believed it so much that even we didn’t dare stand on that particular stair by the end of the week…

I was sharing a room with my friend Lisa, and Michelle was sharing with Vicky (also from Moston and Beswick Band) and our two rooms were next to each other at the end of a corridor. One night, after we had been at our usual prankiest best, Michelle and Vicky ended up locking themselves out of their room. Now, these were the days when once kids were out of sight of the adults and off timetable we were basically forgotten about and so we had to dig deep into our own resourcefulness (at the age of 10, can you imagine that nowadays??) and we ended up sharing our beds with them. I shared with Michelle and Vicky shared with Lisa which was fine…until someone said “….did anyone hear that tapping noise at the door? Perhaps the ghost is looking for us!”. Not good…

We both joined Manchester Music Centre shortly after that and we were room buddies when we went on a tour of Canada and America in 1987. It was a great experience and once again we ended up sharing a bed when we stayed with host families for a few days. We stayed with a family in Ann Arbor, Michigan and I think Michelle stayed in touch with them for years afterwards. I didn’t. I think I lost their address before I’d even got back on the plane to come home tsk..

Ever since then I have been in contact with Michelle and we ended up both playing for the same band in 2005, Middleton Band. Michelle was on cornet still and was married with one daughter. After she’d joined Middleton Band she went on to baritone and fell pregnant with her second daughter. It was great to be in closer friendship with her as adults as we had been as kids and I’ll never forget her description of an attempted shower one day when we were in Blackpool for a competition:

We were staying in a bed and breakfast hotel close to the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, and as anyone who has stayed in Blackpool knows the rooms in the B&Bs are tiny to say the least. Michelle was quite heavily pregnant at the time and she had difficulty moving around the room, which would have been tricky even before it had had its miniscule ensuite bathroom shoved into the corner. The shower cubicle was designed for a midget and the door didn’t open too wide as it was, but being heavily pregnant, there was absolutely no way Michelle would have got through the gap to get under the shower head. She indignantly regaled us of the tale at breakfast, and how she literally had to shower one body part at a time to get washed. One arm, then the other arm, one leg, then the other leg…I won’t go any further but you can imagine the rest!

Michelle moved with her husband and two daughters to Canada some years ago and keeps everyone up to date with pictures and stories regularly. It’s not quite the same as having her around though.

Michelle is a truly unique individual and to know her is to love her. She is a very gentle character and won’t have any bitching in her earshot. She is a lifelong supporter of Manchester City and loves her ale, just like me. I don’t think she has any plans to visit rainy Manchester again soon and as I don’t have plans (or budget) to visit Canada, I don’t know when I’ll see her again. However, I can tell her that there’s a pint of John Willie’s finest waiting for her at the Old Boar’s Head next time she’s in town!!

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5 thoughts on “My Farthest Friend”

  1. oo small world. we’re almost neighbours. I worked at Manchester Dogs Home and live a few stops up the M66 from you! And I used to work with Aaron Hayes (baritone)
    Look forward to reading your posts.


  2. A heart warming post. Even you can not visit at least you have been to North America so can relate a little to the geography & culture of Canada. One of the very best things about email and internet is that we can keep in better contact with people far away. I remember the excitement over those thin blue airmail letters arriving once or twice a year as a child.


    1. I had airmail penpals as a child too, and yes, those little blue envelopes landing on the doormat were so exciting! I much prefer the instant contact we have now though but I do think it’s sad that we are not leaving behind suitcases full of our history in our attics for our descendants to find as our ancestors did for us.


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