My attention had been caught by a small bracelet, delicately wrought in coloured wools. Its owner and my fashion adviser, was a very earnest young lady, some seven years old. She explained "It's my friendship bangle -- I have this one, and Tiara, my bestest friend ever, has one the same".
I too had once known this requirement. With the aid of his brother's scout knife we cut our thumbs and became blood brothers, as demonstrated by Jeff Chandler playing Cochise in Broken Arrow, a recent Saturday matinee film. Sworn to everlasting friendship. It is a shame I can't remember who he was.
He lived with his mother and a succession of uncles; he could climb a lamppost faster than anyone else; and possessed an amazing collection of disgusting things in matchboxes. I was drawn by his independence of spirit but my parents considered him to be an undisciplined ne'er-do-well and an unhealthy influence.
We had our own secret symbol, never to be divulged under any circumstance, which paradoxically was displayed in ink on the backs of our hand. Mine remained clear and fresh, being renewed after hand washing at each mealtime. His faded gradually over a period of some weeks. We inevitably drifted apart after junior school, with my transition to a grammar school. He took this as a personal affront.
Such milestones in life were commemorated with little autograph books, whose pastel coloured pages were endorsed by departing friends. Autographs of the dinner lady (who patrolled the lunchtime playground surrounded by chosen acolytes) and the caretaker with his wooden leg (who lived in a small corrugated shack and hated children), were interspersed with rhymes and drawings by school friends. It was a social stigma to collect fewer entries than another.
Everyone had a personal and pithy phrase for entry. Adults would pen well-meaning proverbs or advice for a subsequent career, while entries by friends were often of an extremely personal nature.
If only I could remember his name ...
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