About two weeks ago my mobile phone alerted me to an incoming SMS with its usual triple vibration. I flipped it open, hit Yes, and found a message from a schoolfriend I hadn't seen, spoken to, heard from for almost ten years.
He was wondering if I would be free on March 1 to play the Eton Field Game for his scratch side against the School eleven.
Just then, a stranger approached, and told me he was going to cut off the bottom of one of my trouser legs and put it in the library.
That's a turn up for the books I thought.
I told him (old friend, I mean, not the stranger I invented for the purposes of a lame joke) that of course I'd love to play. And then realised I hadn't played for ten years, that I am hideously unfit, and that it was surely going to be a really, quite strange experience.
Which it sure was.
Turns out the place hasn't changed much, but then when you're 563 years old, what's a decade? Everything was much as I had left it, including my old friends (bit misleading, actually, that, since they were in the same house but three years below me. We didn't hang out much. The relationship was built more around them pissing about, and me setting them suitable punishments), all instantly recognisable as older versions of their schoolboy selves, and all still called Charlie, or variations thereof. Guess I wasn't so different either - I even turned up late in my traditional manner. Gawd bless the trains!
They've changed the old game though. Gone is the gloriously dangerous ram, gone are endless set bullies (read Eton Field Game if you want to know what I'm talking about), and in their place are free-kicks left, right and centre. Apparently the game needed speeding up. As a wheezing smoker in his late twenties trying to keep up with the young whipper-snappers in the school side, I'm inclined to disagree on this point.
Inevitably, we lost, and the school side remained unbeaten - but hey, we were unbeaten when I was in the side, and i like to think there was a touch of class about our play back in the day, too (Without wishing to sound smug or arrogant, my play was described as 'sublime' in the end of season review...). I'm not surprised to have lost, really - playing three times a week, knowing the rules, staying fit; all these add up to more of a plateau than an edge for a school side that for all our age, guile, and aggression we couldn't quite match.
Afterwards we sat in the pub, talked over the game, and caught up as much of ten years as is possible in one afternoon. I'd forgotten what a great bunch of guys they all were, and wished I'd stayed more in touch with this past life.
I'd forgotten about or not thought about a lot of stuff. None of which I can really go into, I'm afraid. It's just too close, some of it, for a threepenny daylog, and the rest, well, bad things have happened to so many good people, and I only wish they hadn't.
But I've made a vow (but only to myself, just in case I don't follow it through...) to contact people I used to know. If you knew theboy once upon a time, watch out - he's coming to an inbox with your name on it...
Right now, though, I'm going to have to focus most of my attention on walking with a thousand aching limbs, and not coping with the emotional aftermath of trying to watch the last ten minutes of the Worthington Cup final and the last few overs of the England v Australia World Cup encouter.
At least one worked out alright in the end.
I'm thinking of quitting my job and trying something entirely different. I saw a friend in town the other day. He was just standing in the high street, and the back of his anorak was leaping up and down. People were throwing him money, which I thought was odd, so I asked him if he earned his living doing this.
Yes, he said, this is my livelihood.