The Malta Independent 18 April 2024, Thursday
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A friend for all seasons

Sunday, 16 July 2023, 10:41 Last update: about 10 months ago

Louis Gatt

Close friendship is a wonderful thing.

And I have experienced it at its very best. In my nearly 60 years on this planet I have been fortunate enough to have many friendships but, apart from my marriage, only one really close. It started way back when we were students at university. And what brought us together was our then girlfriends. They happened to be best friends studying at a nearby teachers training college, both very pretty and bright. Harry, my friend and I, met them at one of the college's dances and - give or take a dalliance or three - we stayed with them for the duration of our courses. But we must have quite fancied them because we continued to see both of them even after we and they had graduated. But over time, we drifted away from them and sought others... like you do.

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What cemented Harry's and my friendship were really three things: Our love for the ladies... attractive ones that is; our love (almost as passionate) for sport and our love of good draught real bitter ale.

After Uni both Harry and I moved abroad to work; he to Germany, while I went to my company's head office in Ontario, Canada. We kept in touch via snail mail (no email or WhatsApp back in the 80s). Trouble was I absolutely loathed life in Canada, while Harry felt the same about his time in Dusseldorf. So, we decided to resign from our jobs and go travelling together in Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East.

Happily, we still had our students' union cards, so we decided to hitch-hike around and sleep in youth hostels or on various beaches. We took trains to reach Athens - where the students union cards came in handy. And once in the city decided that the one site we just had to visit was the Acropolis... naturally. This was fine, up to the point where one of the site's security officers took exception to the fact that I was carrying a scouts knife in a sheath near my back pocket. This he removed and was preparing to disappear with it when I, unsurprisingly, objected. The knife would serve me well for slicing up salad vegetables etcetera on our travels. So Harry managed to get hold of the escaping "thief's" wrist and stop him in his tracks. I then managed to strike down hard on the, now wriggling, miscreant's wrist, causing him to drop the knife, which I quickly picked up and replaced in its sheath. The guy then reached into his pocket and brought out a whistle. One shrill blast and the entire place was swarming with green-uniformed security men. We beat it super-fast!

A few days later at an outdoor café in Athens' Omonia Square, Harry, myself, plus two rather attractive Dutch girls were taking mid-morning coffees, when we were approached by two young Greek guys. They completely ignored Harry and I, pushing in front of us to start chatting-up the girls. Both Harry and I thought: "Bugger this" and Harry began to rise from his seat at the table. Now Harry is a big guy... a very big guy and he had to do no more than stand up. Both of the interlopers took off at pace down the street and we went back to our elevenses.

And today, more than 40 years on, Harry and I are still very good mates. We meet up once a year, when he makes his annual pilgrimage to Malta. And - hopefully - this will continue until we both become geriatric and immobile...


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