When A Friend Goes To War

Chances are if you're young and working class in Britain you'll have had a friend who's done a tour over the years...
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All friends have a wall. Especially if you've grown up on an estate where the curtains hang back and there are decades of shared history, it's the one stationary object friends head towards in times of trouble. It has a history, that wall. You bounce thousands of footballs on it. You drink on it. You fall out on it and you remember it. It has a strange gravitational pull. Especially for boys of a certain generation and age.

In 2002 we all met on that wall again. We had a friend going to war. A series of simple phone calls were sent out informing people to meet there. People travelled from far and wide, even as far as abroad. Everyone turned up. We all stood on that wall again. No one discussed the politics of war or the foreign, dangerous waters my friend was heading into. We just wanted to be there as mates. We larked about. We took the mick out of each other. Somewhere down the line someone produced a flat football and we kicked the shit out of it till there was no air left in it. Then we made a bald wig from the inner. We fell about laughing.


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Chances are in the last ten years that if you're young and working class in this country you'll have had a friend that's went to war. A real friend, not an internet one. Someone you share memories with or would lend a tenner to without thinking. Chances are too that they won't have  been fighting for their country or some politicians rhetoric but their mate stood next to them. That's the politics of friendship really. Something as simple as looking after each other.

I met my friend back at that wall recently too. He came back. He didn't much talk about the war and I didn't ask him. It was personal to him. His one simple gripe seemed to be that we didn't have a cheap, flat football to kick about or any cheap lager to drink. We larked about anyway and went into being nine mode again. Pretty soon I knew the rest of the lads would turn up anyway.