I found out today, while doing a Google search, that one of my best friends from high school, Leslie Gilbody, passed away almost exactly a year ago. I'd been trying to track him down for ages, but found his online obituary today. I miss you heaps, Les, and my sincere sympathy to Cathy and your family.
I dug through the old photo albums today, to find a pic of Les and Cathy's 1978 wedding, but I'd forgotten that Les had his eyes closed in the shot! So I kept digging and found two snaps from a much earlier time, taken at the end of our first year at Kogarah High School. Les's parents were a school principal and infants' mistress, and Les attended their school for his primary years; otherwise, he'd have probably attended my primary school, because he lived only a few metres from my house - even closer when he took the shortcut through the canal! We became very good friends at high school, and it's frustrating to think we lived so close to each other for so long before our first meeting.
Leslie Gilbody (below right in the b/w pic, and the tall one, in the green T-shirt, in the colour pic)
at my 13th birthday party, December 1971.
Les and I often walked home from Banksia Station together. The two of us developed a wonderful friendship with the woman who ran the newsstand in the subway, and, over several days, he taught me how to blow bubbles with bubble gum bought from her stall.
Being one of the "cool" guys at school, he was an effective bodyguard if ever I was being hassled by schoolyard bullies. In the September of 1971, Les volunteered his services to help my family move house (from Arncliffe to Rockdale). Les left school rather abruptly, halfway through 1974, if I recall correctly, but he made a point of reconnecting every few years, even when we moved house again. He tracked us down in Kingsgrove, turning up at the front door one evening, eager to take me for a spin in his new car, and out to the Shire to see his parents' new house.
One of my fondest anecdotes about Les was the afternoon that our pals, Jim and Greg (who were so much shorter than lanky Les), decided they needed to have revenge on him for some reason. Unbeknown to me (I guess I was in a different carriage that day?), they held him down on the train, preventing him from alighting at Banksia Station and taking him on to Arncliffe Station instead. While one boy pinned him to the train seat by his hair, the other sat on Les's chest and drew glasses, a beard, moustache, sideburns, scars and freckles all over his face with an indelible, thick, black Texta. I was chatting to Mrs Sheppard at the newsstand and Les arrived, having had to catch a train back to Banksia, and we had to walk all the way home with Les's face still decorated. He took the boys' prank in such good humour, and we laughed such a lot that day as we pondered how he'd remove the ink before a family wedding scheduled for the next day.
Thanks for the memories, mate!