When the idea of undertaking some sort of charity challenge first occurred to me - in true Archimedean spirit, it happened in the bath - I had no real idea what to expect.
I just wanted to set myself a number of goals that would be achievable - not simple, not ridiculously difficult, but tasks that would need effort to arrange, would require help from friends and strangers alike, but which ultimately would not only help raise awareness of mental health issues, but also have a positive impact on my life.
Today I completed the twenty-first of the forty challenges on my list, as enjoyable as so many of the previous twenty, but arguably one of the most surreal.
On yet another miserable May morning, Elaine and I headed south to the pretty little market town of Helmsley, to meet Sarah, a classmate from my primary school (York College, which I left in 1972), and someone I hadn't seen for roughly thirty-five years.
I had been nervous the previous evening. We had exchanged e-mails and texts since I managed to get in touch with Sarah back in January, but actually meeting her was something else altogether. I think it's fair to say that Sarah was my "childhood sweetheart", but given that I was only eight at the time, the intervening decades meant that we were essentially strangers.
We had arranged to meet at Porter's Coffee Shop. Elaine and I arrived at first - which was a surprise seeing as you needed a bloody degree to work the parking meter - but just a couple of minutes later a face that was more familiar than I expected appeared at the other end of the shop.
I needn't have been nervous, the introductions and conversation were relaxed and natural, and there wasn't a single awkward moment - well apart from feeling my cheeks start to redden as Sarah related a Valentine's card story from c.1972... I will check with my Mum, but I'm sure I would have got you a card too...).
I suppose we cross paths with so many people during our lives, those paths inevitably lead and, in the overwhelming majority of cases, never converge again. The fact that Sarah and I attended the same primary school is basically all we had in common, and is probably no real basis for adult friendship. Yet with Elaine and I having spent a very enjoyable couple of hours in Sarah's company, heard about her life and family, and shared our own experiences and stories, I can only say that I hope that the wait for the next meeting is significantly shorter!
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