Goodbye old friend, good to not see you
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Goodbye old friend, good to not see you

The best relationships are ones entirely bereft of contact. The pandemic has made that possible.

I received a text message this week from an old work colleague from my time in London. He had moved to Hong Kong at the beginning of the pandemic and was leaving just as vaccines were starting to be rolled out. "Shame we never got to catch up," he said.

It was a shame, I thought. We had planned drinks several times over the last year but on each occasion there was a reason to cancel. Sometimes it was his work commitments that got in the way. Other times I was nursing a hangover. But more often than not we were caught out by tightening rules on bars and restaurants in Hong Kong, or spikes in cases that made social gatherings seem unwise.

I replied to him with a message of regret that we hadn’t met up and wished him the best for the future. He gave me a stock tip. But then I started thinking: what else could a man hope for from his friendships?

I haven’t seen some of my best friends in years. Schoolfriends, university buddies, others forged in those early years of work when you turn to each other for ideas and support rather than just, say, stock tips.

On the other hand, I see some people I only mildly like on an almost daily basis. I spend a lot of time with people I have nothing in common with except the fact that our wives know each other. I haven’t found a way to extricate myself from regular conversations with an old curmudgeon in my building who thinks a rainy day is political correctness gone mad.

Perhaps my old work colleague and I had the best reunion, then — one that didn’t actually involve reuniting. We expressed the right sentiments, exchanged a few words of advice and never had to bother with all of that bothersome small talk.

There’s nothing like old friends.