Like flying and the memory of Cross Country running at school, too much sentiment makes me feel nauseous. However, this weekend one of my best friends and favourite people, Tom Woodward, turned 21 and attention must be paid.
Tom and I first met, curiously, through the auspices of my novel, Popular. I had finished the novel a few months earlier and had been working on the scripts for a possible dramatisation, when I attended a production of Accidental Death of an Anarchist in Oxford one evening. My friend Johnny Rhodes was in the lead, but with the read through being held in a few days, I was anxious to find someone to read the part of Blake Hartman for Popular. After watching Tom's performance, I dropped him a line on Facebook and he very kindly agreed to read Blake's part.
So, Tom and I actually began our friendship by reading the beginnings of the romance between Cameron and Blake. Which, as starts go, has to be crashingly inauspicious. Luckily, in every single way, the omen could not conceivably have been more wrong.
Be it a 5 a.m. phone-call in which Scarlett and I decide to ring Tom as we shimmy home at dawn to regale him with the story of our night; be it at 5:45 a.m. when he has to text me to inform him that the 37 texts I've drunkenly sent to his phone are to the wrong person ("Gareth, no matter how many times you send this, I am NOT your mother!"), be it at 8:30 a.m. when I call him to apologise for waking him at 5, only to wake him again... or the time my BlackBerry was stolen and i had to have the taxi drop me off at his house, so he could talk me off the ledge, or all the many, many times he has made me laugh (often at myself... I lie. I have no sense of humour about my own glory!) Tom has been, without doubt, one of the most delightful and fantastic of friends.
Last night, his wonderful parents held a birthday at the Sir John Soane Museum in London, with a meal for Tom and his friends. Drinks were followed by a tour of the museum, built by the celebrated 18th century architect and antiquarian, whose collection is preserved just as he left it and includes the sarcophagus of Pharaoh Seti I. The food was delicious and there were a series of speeches in Tom's honour. Although I made a rather feeble attempt at one after the hilarious main speech by Tom's school-friend Will, the highlight of the later speeches came from Tom's father, Shaun, and from Tom's lovely girlfriend, Charlotte. This was followed by a night of frolicking in London and it was a fabulous evening for all concerned!
To a dear friend and a very funny one, happy birthday and thank you!
P.S. - I really am sorry that I shamed your love of all things Apple by buying a Dell laptop and a BlackBerry. If it's any consolation, maybe God was on your side when the latter was stolen from me. Along with my Tom Ford sunglasses' case. By some fugly thieving mutant!