This is my oldest friend, John O’Reilly. He and I were ‘best friends’ from the time we were born until the age of about five, when he moved away. John now lives in San Francisco, where he is a property lawyer. He is a passionate world traveller, who has been to more than 80 countries. He and I are still close pals after all these years. Here he is in our house on a rare visit to England.
From the time I was old enough to crawl around and grumble and squeak, until I was five, my best friend was Johnnie O’Reilly. Here we are together, aged four or five, in a photo taken by my mother and developed by his mother, as they shared a darkroom. Poor Johnnie was made to wear a bow tie for this picture, while I got off easy by just pulling on my horizontally striped turtle-necked jumper which I remember very well and liked it a lot. Nat O’Reilly was always making Johnnie wear a bow tie, and it was one of the many reasons why I always felt that it was my job to protect and look after him. I was always kissing the top of his head to reassure him, because he suffered from shyness and was always wondering ‘whether everything was alright’. He is now very self-confident and a highly successful San Francisco lawyer, and instead of me, he has Ginger to look after him. (And Ginger is something else, as anyone who meets her can instantly appreciate).