Some of my favorite experiences are not once-only events but types, and one of the best and most memorable pleasures of life so far has been having a laugh with some good friends…
My idea of a real friend is someone I can relax and be myself with-not someone I have to force myself to chuckle at small-talk with. I’ve had a number of close friends over the years: all, unfortunately, a long way from where I live now. Of those good friends the one I’ve had the most laughs with is a bloke called Terence Ruffle. Terence is one of those people who loved to laugh and would make light of almost any situation. Even in a mildly disastrous conundrum, and perhaps after some brief initial shock, Terence would turn things into a joke, so that it didn’t seem to be half as bad as it would if you were with someone else who took things seriously. I’m not talking here about out of place mockery, flippancy, ridicule or rudeness, but good-humored fun, and always pithy, witty and imaginative. It was these qualities in his humor which made me laugh so much-the cleverness and inventiveness of his words and observations. I only wish I could supply an illustration of his verbal inventiveness, but I have a terrible memory for word-for word conversation, and I’m afraid I couldn’t do him justice.
However, to illustrate the general tone of his positive spirits and good humor, I relate to you an incident in which he and I decided late one night to visit someone who lived on a barge. The tide was low, and the barge was moored next to the quay on the famed Blackwater River, probably with a few others which would have been “parallel parked”. Taking the lead in our venture, I stepped from the quayside, expecting to connect my foot with the edge of the barge, and instead fell between the two. I just managed to hook a hand on each side, so that I was hanging like a letter “Y”, suspended several feet above deep, deep mud and dirty water.
What was Terry doing? He was laughing his head off. To him this was a hilarious spectacle. It wasn’t a sadistic laugh: it never was with Terence, because he was too caring even of his enemies. I know he would most definitely have been somber and immediately helpful if he thought I was in any danger or if I was hurt.
After gaining a minute or two of hysterical lung-exercise at the sight of my predicament, he came to my rescue, grabbed a hand, and pulled me up, where we had a laugh together.
I thank my God for laughter, for friends like Terence (although there are very few around like him)…and also that I didn’t fall into the mud.