It was good to see James again. The last time was several months ago. Since then there is a lot to catch up on; his father’s illness, his summer holiday in France with Moraty, Curlan and Yorik, his job, etc.
We meet for lunch at the Blue Bell Pub, convenient for both of us on this grey day in early December. James looks well and retains his adolescent gawkiness; we shake hands.
We order from the bar menu; at our table James sits opposite and fidgets with his fingers. I enquire of his father’s health.
It seems his father is once more in hospital. James is visibly distressed but I can see he’s being brave. I use the word ‘prognosis’. He knew the word but was unsure of its meaning. It turns out the prognosis is not good. Cancer of the bowel is the condition James hitherto referred to as ‘a pain in his bottom’. He talks about his father and shows he understands the struggle his father has with the confines of hospital. I realise James feels he can use a direct approach with me now. He makes more eye contact and smiles more often than I remember. I wonder how many people see his lovely smile?
I sense he feels pleased with himself; it has not always been so.
I was James’ House Master at his last school; he’s recently had his 28th birthday. Though his condition is mild, James is on the Autistic Spectrum. One-to-one conversation in a public place is not easy for him, nor is the subject of his father’s failing health. After the years he has gradually become more confiding. I am impressed with his growing up.
He’s still has his job at Waitrose Supermarket after more than five years. He laughs at the thought of promotion but I know he’ll begin to consider it, in time.
He talks about his holiday in the Pyrenees with four of his cohort at the same boarding school. We laugh at the expense of Yorik who managed to crash his bicycle into a parked French baker’s van. Only the van was hurt. He tells me he enjoyed hiking in the mountains and other activities arranged by a Dutch national and his English partner who provide holidays for young persons like James. At times conversation flowed; measure in small but important gains.
Two hours go by in a flash. We exchange Christmas cards; I give him one for his parents from us. In relations like this it’s a whole family you befriend; all of us working from the same song sheet. I let James pay this time as I know it will please him.
Though I have my camera I don’t take a photograph. Instead I’ve had so much pleasure writing this piece to share with you.