In the last couple of days (we've been having quite a clear-out at our place) I sorted through a bunch of letters from people we knew, or still know, letters that we'd kept for one reason or another. Again, some of the letter writers are now dead, including my best friend, who died at the age of 41 after choking during an asthma attack - at Christmas, as it happens.
The curious thing about these letters, however, is that there are several from people I can't even remember any more. In one or two cases it's because the face of the person, and anything I knew about him or her, has faded almost entirely. But in one particular case, the family who'd written to me (people we had obviously known at some point) mean absolutely nothing: the name doesn't even register. That's weird. It's also strange to have a few letters from people with whom I had only the briefest of encounters: one young man and I met up while I was hitch-hiking around England on my own. I shared his tent one night because that was the only option I had in the circumstances (I guess I was staying at hostels the rest of the time; I can't remember). It poured with rain during the night, and, not being someone who'd ever had much acquaintance with tents, I was surprised to find in the morning that my feet were soaked because I'd had them comfortably stuck up against the tent wall during the night. The tent-owner and I parted company not long after that, and we corresponded for a few months, maybe, and then...nothing. He was in one of the services, as I recall, and I know his first name, but nothing else. And yet I remember him when I don't remember some people we obviously had a good deal more to do with!