Last month I lost an old friend of  47 years.

Wendy and I met at school. I went to parties at her house, we had hilarious afternoons of Donkey racing, and throughout her periodic stints abroad (her father worked at various British Consulates), we exchanged letters every month without fail; and not a Christmas has gone by without exchanging cards since 1967.  She was one of the happiest souls I have ever known, generous and caring and ready to befriend the entire world. Her whole family were that way. Their household was the kind of open house where you could wander in at any time and be certain of a welcome. It was one of those friendships that could be picked up at any time, no matter how long we went without contact, and carried on where it left off. When I heard about her passing it hit me hard, and it seemed almost a betrayal that I wasn’t able to attend her funeral. She passed on after a long battle with cancer. This Christmas will be the first in 47 years when those cards will not cross whatever miles separate us. Still can’t quite imagine that, and probably won’t until the cards come down in 12th Night.

And now, exactly one month later, we have news of another devastating loss.

Joel Lane was a gentle soul. Kind and caring. A man of passion and profound beliefs in both his politics and his fiction. A deep thinking man of stunning intellect. He came to our regular summer and New Year parties, and had many a dinner with us. We talked on many things, debating on so many subjects but never falling out, no matter that we disagreed on occasion; the mark of a truly strong friendship.

Peter is devastated, as am I, at the loss of a good friend. Peter had known Joel Lane for 30 years and valued him as a friend. He was a founder member of the Balti Boys, along with Peter, Dave Sutton, Mike Chinn and John Howard. Others joined the band, but when I first went to live in Brum that was the gang. All crammed into Peter’s Ford Sierra (Peter was the only one who could drive) going to Ladypool Road for a Balti supper. A boy’s night out, but not to talk of cars or football. Theirs was an evening of Lovecraft and Robert E Howard and allied authors. Of such things lasting friendships are forged. Joel Lane was a man we were proud to call our friend and far too young to leave this world. We shall miss you more than we can say.

Yet another card will not be crossing the divide this year and the mortality of each and everyone of us seems that much closer.


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