It’s probably bad form to use an in-joke as the title of a new blog, but there it is anyway, and there’s only one person in the world who will read that title and find it funny. Her name’s Melanie, and we were at school together in the 1970s, and I think it’s probably true to say that I’ve laughed more with her over the years than I’ve laughed with any other friend, and that’s even allowing for a gap of about eight years when we didn’t see each other at all.
I was in the third year at Kirk Balk Comprehensive when we met. She was a new girl, and it wasn’t an easy school to be new at, in those days. It was the sort of school where you just kept your head down, and tried to avoid eye contact with the handful of terrorists we were lumbered with, and there was Melanie, who walked into our form room wearing nylons when all the girls were wearing socks, and said’ ‘Call me Mel for short.’ Someone imitated her, and a few people sniggered. I’d like to say I spoke up, and made room for her next to me, and told the sniggerers to button it: but I didn’t. I kept my head down, and it was probably a few days later that it seemed safe enough to show an interest, from which point we became inseparable.
I found her hilarious, and she found me hilarious, so we just used to laugh at each others’ jokes, which were far too obscure to try to share with anyone else. We used to sneak home to my house and make ourselves egg and chips (in those days when the chip pan was barely ever cold.) We stitched a pathetic hem of Broderie Anglaise onto our skirts to try and get the gipsy look we were after. We ran a second-hand clothes stall on Hoyland Market, and made enough money to buy a pair of Levis and a pair of Gola trainers – each, that is: not to share. We went to see Elkie Brooks in Sheffield, wearing tweed hacking jackets and kipper ties we’d borrowed from our dads. We opened her bedroom windows and sat on the ledge playing Dark Side of the Moon at full blast, so that everyone knew how ace we were. We knew several Monty Python sketches off pat, and recited them to each other. We wrote a school pantomime, that made us cry with laughter, and then we performed it to an entirely silent audience of underwhelmed Year 10s. Even the fact that nobody laughed made us laugh. We must’ve been right pains in the backside.
Anyway, I saw Melanie last night. We met up in Stratford-on-Avon, which is halfway between our respective homes, for a catch up. I got a text from her, just before I arrived: ‘I am here in room and left ropey bed for you Smesh.’ – I can’t even begin to explain why we’re Smesh, Smesher or Smeshinette, and it wouldn’t sound funny if I did. But it made me laugh, even before I got to the hotel. I arrived at half past four, and at quarter to nine, we stopped talking – and laughing – for long enough to realise we were hungry. More chat over dinner, more still in our pokey twin room. I’m home now, and I’m already looking forward to the next time.
And the point of writing all this down, I suppose, is because I just think you can’t beat those friendships that go all the way back to the days of school dinners (which Melanie and I liked, especially claggy pudding) and cheating on the cross country runs. All of life’s highs and lows, all the slings and arrows, all the years and the distance between – none of it alters the magic of how, at fourteen, and with the right friend, everything and anything is funny. This blog is a tribute, then, to female friendship in general, and to my mate Melanie in particular.
And if you’re reading this, Smesh, it were smeshin x