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Andy Richardson: Looking up old pals is ok if you’re living the dream

Where are they now? Whatever became of Damon and Debbie, Tiffany or Bouncer the Dog from Neighbours?

Living the dream?
Living the dream?

While we reflect on the burning issue of the day and try to remember what became of X Factor winner, Jahmene Douglas, should we also be asking another question? Fun though it is to find out that a former Coronation Street star and the Blur bassist both now make cheese or a former Premier League footballer runs a window cleaning business, isn’t there a similarly brutal reality check when we look closer to home? What happened to our besties from school? And – killer question alert – what the hell happened to the person we promised we’d become?

As kids, we imagine we’ll be spotted playing football in the street by a scout from our local Premier League team who’ll just happen to be passing as we score an imaginary goal at Wembley. We think we’ll outperform Adele at the Royal Albert Hall and that half-drunk karaoke will be spotted by a multi-millionaire impresario who’ll whisk us away from the doldrums and make all our dreams come true. And then we wake to find ourselves serving condoms in Boots, or mowing lawns for a Crown Court judge. Gah. Life, eh?

But what became of our friends from school? Did they make it outta here and live the dream? Or did real life get in the way as nappies piled high, pressures of work overwhelmed and the lure of 2.4 kids and a Ford Mondeo became hard to resist?

For a little while, finding out what happened to our besties – and sworn enemies – was easy. The short-lived website provided details of former classmates, revealing prison sentences, jobs at banks, pictures of grinning toddlers and dogs named Sparky. Bliss. Ain’t life grand?

Armed with such knowledge, it became easy to avoid The Class of – insert your favourite year here – parties on the basis that you wouldn’t want to hang around with that bunch of no-marks that you were forced to get along with for five miserable years at school. Probably.

I think I’ve only ever been invited to one reunion, which was with colleagues from a first job. I turned it down. I was – and am – still busy on the career path we all started out on and it feels somehow wrong to look back with rose-tinted shades when there’s still so much work ahead.

The demise of Friends Reunited and global domination of Facebook, or is that now Meta?, changed all that. It became easy to maintain the sort of relationships that we had at school, or in our first job, with the click of a mouse. Wondered what happened to Emma, or Joanne? Just pop in the name and there they are; managing the local branch of Wilko, their potential now fulfilled. Wondered what happened to Barry or Richard? Quick search. Ah yes. The dark sheep is now living the life beside a pool in Florida while Barry’s penchant for late night sausages fried in lard led to the inevitable shortened life span.

I’ve faired pretty poorly in keeping up with old pals. There are three I’m still loosely in touch with and to them I confer the title ‘friend’. Michael remains as irascible and the perennial rock-star-in-waiting, Joanne is the dear heart strength never wavered while Kiran became king of all he surveyed in living an exemplary life and just being good at everything. As we all knew he would.

And as for the rest? I don’t have a scooby. New friends, colleagues and associates filled the gap and provided the support, humour, fraternity and closeness that pals from school once did.

Playing the whatever-happened-to game is all well and good – though do we also want to apply the test to ourselves: the me, myself and I thing? Did we feature in an FA Cup final or settle for a life as a BT engineer? Did we fulfil all of those childhood dreams or, as Noel Gallagher’s Oasis sang, did the dreams we have as children fade away? Did we go on to become a mayor, beauty queen or rock’n’roll star, or simply settle for a life serving cheese strings to nine-year-olds at the local Spar?

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