Old friend

Caught up last night with a friend I met in my first ‘real’ job nearly 30 years ago. That was back at the bank, and a pretty wild era it was. I think I’ve probably written about it elsewhere on this blog. We were all young working in the back-office (IO) of the NAB, managing currency trading, imports, exports, and so on. It was a very masculine environment, and consequently pretty competitive, and tending to the excessive. Times have changed, back then though we were very much a part of the eighties – a shitload of drinking, during lunchbreaks, a few nights a week, and every Friday night in the office. There was plenty of sex to. While most of us were male, there was a sprinkling of women. And in an era before PC’s proper every pod had a typist, generally a pretty girl of about 20. Looking back it was a bunch of fun, but pretty combustible to. I was in my element.

There was a bunch of us who got friendly back then. We all started around the same time and progressed through the organisation on the same path. We were all very young, with degrees of confidence and worldliness. Ahead of us, encrusted in the organisation, were the hard-bitten time servers. Most of them were supervisors or junior management, and never likely to progress much beyond that – they’re probably still there. Some were good, and most were fine once you had their respect, but there was also an element of sport to it. There were some tough dudes amongst them, and if they sniffed any weakness they’d go for the jugular. If I’m a certain way now then perhaps it’s because I had to run that gauntlet. I was luckier than many – I did my job well, and while I had a smart mouth I also had the wit that could run rings around most of them, and they knew it. And physically I was not someone to be pushed around. Other’s weren’t so lucky – the timid, the incompetent, the fearful, the ugly, the fat, and so on.

Hell, I’m making it sound terrible, and it wasn’t really. Outside of one incident there was never anything much more than the odd comment and the barely suppressed threat. I did battle with a guy every week, but kind of enjoyed it – I was a very cocky bastard. In any case, we banded together, strength in numbers and all that.

Royston was a genuine friend, and I’ve been catching up with him ever since. He was great fellow even then, a big smile, happily self-deprecating, always ready to laugh. He was garrulous and friendly and beneath all of that, a pretty good operator. He was, and remains the archetypical bear of a man with a heart of gold. He got through the gauntlet because he made people smile. Though he was burly, he couldn’t hurt a fly. He used to call me Punching Bags – even then I had a bit of a pugnacious reputation.

Back in the day we were drinking companions – he was very accomplished – along with a few others. I continued to see him after I moved on. We would catch up at different venues, often the Mitre Tavern, and down beer after beer while we caught up on the news and chatted about the latest sports results.

So it was again last night. It was chilly and we had a number of beers sitting outdoors at some pizza restaurant, before moving onto the Mitre once more. We talked about the footy at length, then dissected the cricket, before getting onto the deplorable state of politics in this country – politically different, we both agreed about the lack of competence on either side, and the miserable state of affairs in general.

As usual he did about 75% of the talking. I had forgotten this until meeting him again. I was happy to let him go, enjoying the show.

It was a little after 11 when we finally parted. It was bloody cold and very dark and we’d both had a skinful with no more than a shared bag of chips to soak it up. Good to see him.

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