That’s one of the things we tell our children. But as with so many rules we impose on the shorter members of our family, this is another one of those do as I say, not as I do. Because I have lots of friends I have ‘met’ online, some of them I have gone onto meet in the real world (another big no no if my kids are reading this) and some I haven’t.
Some became very good friends over time. I have some mates who I met through the love of the same band. These friends live all over the world, and for a while, when I lived in the middle of nowhere, in a crumbling marriage, they were my lifeline and my sanity keepers.
One of them died this week. A man called Ben, but known to us as Gwak. He was 29. He lived in Australia, and I never met him and rarely spoke to him on the telephone, most of our conversations were carried out on instant messaging services or sometimes text message. For a few years we spoke more or less daily, but time and new babies on my part and an increasingly busy life combining work, education and music on his, meant this had drifted to a few conversations a year more recently. And yet I still feel his loss. I still feel sad that this magnificent character, with his drumming skills, massive smile and huge heart has gone way before his time.
I cannot be there to hug his family, or be at his graveside, and neither can many others who loved him. But I hope his family feel comforted by the fact that people all round the world will miss him. The world is a smaller place than it used to be, and friendships can take different forms. It is human nature to create a village around ourselves, and he was part of mine. Rest in peace Gwak, wherever you are now, I hope they have plenty of Green Day on the play list,