Come the early 90's and I started to discover a whole new side to the area; the local gays. I moved in as a lodger with a guy I had got to know and was slowly introduced to the local group, some of whom it turned out I already knew from various random 'encounters' in town. My landlord had a fabulous Victorian flat, full of antiques and heavy ornate furniture. I think he figured himself as the local Margot (the character on the right of the photo above)
We stayed fairly tight for a few years with various parties, nights out and occassional affairs amongst members of the group. In fact, I think most of us probabaly shagged most of the others at one time or another, but hey, we were all a lot younger then!
Coming forward to 2004; I had lived in Nottingham for a few years and, following a horrible relationship split, a house burglary and worsening health, I moved back to London. One afternoon, I went back to one of my favourite pubs, Comptons (I've spoken of it before). As I walked in I was amazed at the transformation from when I had last seen it. A daring 'dragons blood red' had become the main interior colour scheme, the same colour as the old flat in Surbiton. As I looked around at the newly installed 'elegant clutter' I started recognising various pieces.... "I'm sure we had that portrait of Elizabeth Bowes Lyons in our lounge" etc...
Just at that point my old landlord came walking down the stairs, now the landlord of my favourite pub! Hence why I drink there so frequently; it's like a home from home!
Anyway, last night I was in there having a beer after a particularly boring training course I'd been on, and in comes one of the 'old' crowd, Steve. Steve had moved to SW France a few years ago to buy a run down hotel, refurb it and re-open as a restaurant/hotel. All had been going well until he suffered a heart attack last year. He's back in London for some treatment just for a couple of weeks, so it was lucky to bump into him.
He'd made arrangements to meet up last night with another old friend, an ex-shag of mine (on a totally amicable basis), so I had another person to catch up with! I hadn't sat and chatted to this guy for at least 10 years.
Then in walked J & I, the central couple of the 'Surbiton Set'. 23 years they've been together now and recently 'civil partnershipped' I'm proud to say. They were always the leaders of the set really and have continued their climb up the ladder and now live in Chelsea Harbour.
So there we were, 15-plus years older and hopefully a little wiser. The banter and bitchiness still flowed as did the dirty comments, but we all just picked up wherever it was we last left off.