What is it about helping a friend? Especially when the friend in question suddenly disappears off the face of the earth for months on end and then without so much as a warning re-enters your life like an unwelcome whirlwind at a Buckingham Palace garden party.
You have not met my friend Shazza, have you? Well, you would know if you had. She’s from the North East, with a tendency for not being slow in coming forward and not one to mince her words. There was far more to Shazza than the stereotyped image she often portrayed. That didn’t open some of the doors she was invited through. It took credentials far beyond the reach of many. Hidden depths and unseen talents, ‘wor Shaz’. We had travelled across Europe together in the summer to the World Cup. You may have read some of those adventures! I hadn’t seen her since I saw her chatting with Nelson Mandela. I hadn’t even heard from her till the other day until the phone rang. But Shazza was like that. It was nothing personal. She didn’t mean anything by it.
“Hiyas, guess who? Could yers throw some clothes in a bag and meet us up at the airport, Pet?”
I didn’t need to ask who it was. “Ooh, Shazz, you taking me away on another trip. To the sunshine I hope with this weather. What shall I pack?” The sigh that followed nearly blew my ear off.
“No, Pet. Clothes for me. I haven’t got any, and if another bugga makes one more crack about me standing here in the snow in nobbut a fur coat and sunglasses and mentions knickers…..”
The rest was lost in a sudden muffled exchange. I caught the sound of a male voice, a sharp intake of breath and a loud thud.
“And I’ve no money either,” she continued. “Nothing. I only have the clothes I’m standing up in. I’ll be in the executive lounge and I’d really appreciate it if yers got here sooner rather than later. Mwah.” And then the phone went dead.
Now I assume you have seen the snow outside and heard the Police requests, ‘essential journeys only’. Well it took me an age to reach the airport which was managing to stay open, just, and then another good 15 minutes to park the car, struggle inside and look for Shazza. I eventually found the lounge. It was full, noisy with travellers clamouring for information on delayed flights; full, except for one small island of apparent calm. A woman in a long fur coat and ballerina pumps twiddling a pair of sunglasses. She was definitely not a happy looking bunny and glowering at anyone who approached or even so much as glanced in her direction. I walked over and sat down next to her.
“About time, Pet. Me bum’s gone numb and me tattoo’s itching, now can we go. I just want to get out of here and home. Can we go! I can’t take any more of this. Please.”
There was a hint of despair in her voice and for the first time a tiny glimpse of another Shazza underneath. Ignoring the looks from the other travellers I put my arm around her and helped her to her feet. “I’ve brought you some borrowed clothes, only I didn’t know what to do about… err… underwear.”
“Thanks. Undies? Nae problem, that’s the only thing I have got, well almost, just not quite the full set. Now just let me nip into the loos. I shan’t be a tick.”
She saw my expression and laughed. “I’ll tell yers later.”
“As long as you don’t tell me you’ve been at an Italian cabinet meeting and departed in a hurry.”
There was a twinkle in her eye and she smiled. “You shouldn’t jest, Pet.” She blew a kiss. “Arrivederci, Silvio.” My friend Shazza was back.