Now That We’ve Grown Up Together

My longest and best pal died on Monday.

He was a day short of his 46th birthday.

It’s hit me hard. Sledgehammer hard. Far harder than I ever could have imagined. I’ve had grand parents die when I was 9, 10, something like that. But never a friend of the same age. I am in pieces.

The fact that he died abroad on holiday makes it extra difficult. For a man from the West of Scotland, he had been in reasonably decent health.  There were no clues. He complained of feeling unwell at dinner time on Sunday, went to his bed and didn’t wake up. Just like that.

His poor kids were at home with their grandparents. His poor wife has had to fly home alone, the authorities not yet giving permission for his body to be repatriated. It could be another week, they say. Tragic.

We’d been friends since age 4. Gone through primary and secondary school together. Bought records, played sport, fashioned our hair into popstars together – he favoured the Bono mullet whilst I teased my hair into a James Grant quiff. We had our first pints together. Did daft, drunk, teenage boy stuff together; Clambered legless out of lofts. Played heady tennis with an unopened can of Tennents until Lager Lovely Sheena was buried 4 inches underneath the Bono do. Unsuccessfully chased a pair of beautiful-looking German girls around Ibiza for a week. Occasionally we’d fall out. One time there was a bloody nose (mine, not his) outside a kebab shop at 2 in the morning. But we remained friends. Best of friends.

I saw him more regularly than I see my own brother and sister.

For the past umpteen years we’ve shared a car and taken our sons to Kilmarnock games near and far, the odd trip to Hampden being the icing on a lopsided and inconsistent cake. Since the club redeveloped Rugby Park in 1995, we’ve sat together in the East Stand in the same seats for almost 20 years. Not always season ticket holders, but always the same seats. When our boys started going, his first, mine a few years later, we budged along a bit, proud that they were adopting the noble tradition of their fathers by supporting their local team and not one of the ugly sisters from the city just up the M77.

This Saturday we’d have had a quick phone call – “I don’t know if I can stand any more of this,” he’d always say. “We’ll do well to get any kind of draw today.” And then I’d pick him up at the same time and drive to the game, talking the same rubbish as the last time, listening to Richard Gordon give out the team news on Sportsound and park in the same space near Rugby Park before walking to the ground, buying my boy’s programme from the same seller and following our familiar pre-match ritual of a pre-match pee before going up and into our seats.

This weekend he won’t be there. “Where’s your brother the day?” the man next to me will ask. For years, he’s always thought we were brothers. “Is the big yin no’ coming?” the woman behind us will say. Her and her husband have a laugh every week at his expense when he shouts out badly-pronounced versions of the names of the players on show. English was never his strong point at school. And I’ll have to tell them that he’s not coming today. Or next week. Or ever again.

At 3 o’clock on Saturday afternoon his seat will remain empty.

Here’s True Faith, his favourite record.

We both bought the 12″ of this on holiday on the Isle of Man. He bought the more straightforward (and better) version, whilst I bought the remix version; the one in the white sleeve with lots of falling leaves on the cover.

When we got home from our holiday, we played the records non-stop. In his room we put all the versions of True Faith onto one side of a C45. I still have it somewhere. The next time I’m in my loft I’m gonna have to try and dig it out.



19 thoughts on “Now That We’ve Grown Up Together”

  1. Sorry to hear this. I’ve lost 2 friends to cancer in the last 2 years so can understand some of this. But sudden and unexpected must be very difficult. Best wishes to all.

  2. Craig, so sorry mate. Met Mark at your Burns supper night. Said to him “How do you know Craig & Anne?” and he replied “I grew up with Craig, known him since we were 4” and straight away I knew he was a kindred spirit. loved sharing music stories with him. Your post is beautiful.

  3. My deepest condolences Craig. That was a lovely post. Although I have never met you or your friend I will be thinking of you both as the whistle goes at the Excelsior on Saturday, seated beside my oldest friend since primary school.

  4. Terrible news Craig, I’m very sorry for your loss. A lovely tribute to your friend. Best wishes.

  5. Empathise completely. And the pain never really goes away. Still think about my friend, not every day, its been over ten years now. But he still makes me smile and cry. Was at Rugby Park myself today, my youngest plays for the Killie youth academy team and was playing on the park at halftime. I’m sure your Pal would have enjoyed todays result. Paper Roses…

  6. So sorry to hear this tragic news Craig. Your words about your best friend are beautiful and heartfelt. You can tell from every single word how much he meant to you.

  7. Said “Cheerio” tae an old mate at Masonhill Crem a year back. He was only 52. Went tae school thegither. Formed our first band thegither. Trips, holidays, too many nights at Ayr Piv way back in the day. We went to see New Order when they played The Piv (and The Fall). Heard news he was ill on the Wednesday, nae time to get down… and he was dead by the weekend. I thought we’d end up like Jack and Victor.
    Sorry for your loss.

  8. Lovely words Craig. Trying to reply through tear filled eyes. Mark was a great friend and a huge loss to all.

  9. Heh Craig
    sorry to hear about Mark, met him quite a few times back in the day, the two of you were thick as thieves as I remember…
    Good memories

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