Absent Friends

In which The Author sees some old pals reunited

Back in the day, my friend Emma S. (not to be confused with the Australian girl) was a massive Take That fan. We used to tease her about it in the pub, where she worked part-time as a waitress. Robbie, Jason, Howard, Gary and the other bloke were her ideal fantasy men.
Emma was very tall, slim and rather gawky, with long black hair and a dark complexion. A lot of people thought she was ‘plain’, but I never did. She had a sparky personality, and that’s always been a big factor for me when it comes to women.
When the film Speed came out, Ves and Amanda asked the two of us if we wanted to join them on a trip to the cinema in Cardiff. I wasn’t keen at first, but once I found out that Dennis Hopper was in it I changed my mind. We travelled down by train, had something to eat, and spent two hours on the edges of our seats as Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock and the mighty Mr Hopper demolished a substantial portion of California. After we came out of the cinema, Emma and I refused point-blank to go into the lift. None of us would go near a bus. We eventually caught the train home, under duress. It’s not the best advertisement for public transport.
Emma met and fell in love with an Irish chap who’d come over for one of the rugby internationals. In short order she quit her job and decamped to the Old Country, where they married and settled down.
Some time between Christmas and New Year, Emma and her new husband were walking home when a drunk driver ploughed his way into her. She died at the scene. They’d only been married for a few months. She’s buried in Ireland, but we held a memorial service for her in Aberdare. I saw the photo of her in her wedding dress. She looked incredible.
Tonight, as part of the BBC’s annual Children In Need appeal, Robbie Williams joined his former bandmates on stage for a mass performance of ‘Hey Jude’, with Sir Paul McCartney at the piano. Gary Barlow has become one of the finest songwriters working in British music today. Take That are back at the top of their game, notching up hit after hit. Robbie Williams is an international megastar. Emma would have given anything to witness that reunion. I watched it in the pub on her behalf and shed a tear in her memory.
Far too many of my friends have been taken prematurely in recent years. I’m proud to be able to have counted Emma in their number.
Sleep well, babe.
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