It fills me with great sadness to be doing this again so soon but today I’m remembering and shedding some more tears for an old friend, Julian Ravenhall, who died unexpectedly in his sleep this weekend at the tender age of 36. I’d known him since I was 17, he’d been my friend, my teenaged boyfriend and then my friend again. He’s the only boy that ever dumped me (I think – I’m sure someone will pipe up and correct me) and I was devastated, I thought the world had ended. I’m a bit embarrassed about that now if I’m honest, but at the time there was much wailing and hand-wringing and my poor bemused parents didn’t know what to do with me. Looking at the photos of my teenaged self, with my frizzy pube-like hair and Deirdre Barlow glasses I now think he deserved a medal, poor boy. Yikes.
We met in the pub, as you do. The Air Balloon in Portsmouth in the early 90s was the place where all the young rockers hung out, especially the underage ones like me because they asked no questions. I must have looked no older than 12, though I thought I looked very grown up, especially as my friends and I always overdressed for the occasion, the occasion being Saturday Night. Every single Saturday Night. We’d often walk the length of the city to get there in silly heels to save beer money and then get horribly drunk on snakebite and black. Delicious! The faces you’d see there were the same every weekend, everyone collected in little groups and would hang about in the same part of the pub, week in, week out. As well as the groups though there were “floaters” who seemed to know everyone and my friends and I used to do circuits of the pub so we could take in the different groups and enjoy a drunken laugh or bit of a dance with as many people as possible. These were sociable times.
Around the time I met Jules he and his friends used to hang about in an odd little side room away from the bar. They were a bit of an intimidating bunch of blokes (to me anyway) and they always seemed as though they were having a joke at your expense. They weren’t but remember I was scared of most things at this tender age AND I had godawful hair and glasses. In spite of being a bit scared of them I liked them and often used to join them in their little room. They almost all had “rocker” uniform: long hair, band t-shirts, studded belts etc. Jules was no exception, he had the most beautiful long naturally blond hair and would always wear light blue jeans, a band t-shirt and a denim jacket with band patches sewn on it. Bless. When we first met I remember I thought he was a bit uncool with all his denim (after all, all the cool boys wore black) but somehow at the end of most drunken nights I’d end up snogging him. I really hope my mum’s not reading this. In fact, the reason I ended up going out with him in the end was because he was such a bloody good kisser. I really really REALLY hope my mum’s not reading this. And my husband!
Ahem. So, for the best part of a year when I was about 17 and he was 18 Julian was my boyfriend. I met his family, his lovely mum Sue and his stepdad Derek and they were always very friendly and welcoming. As the youngest child, Jules was clearly the apple of his mother’s eye and he had a great relationship with Derek who he regarded as his father. It was lovely to see because I can’t imagine 18 year old boys are especially easy to deal with. He had older siblings too with whom he had typical sibling relationships: love/hate. From his older brother James I received one of my many nicknames: Fifi Fluffikins. He still calls me that now, so kind. As a 17 year old girl I was a bit new to having boyfriends. Sure, I’d had a couple before but this time I was really keen. So keen in fact that I changed my interests to be more in line with his. I had always enjoyed similar musical taste but now I went all out, even liking the bands I’d not been so sure about like Thunder and Little Angels. I started walking more like he did, he always walked everywhere because he’d never learned to ride a bike. And I had a sudden overwhelming interest in Star Trek Deep Space Nine. And horror novels. And Mortal Kombat which he and his friends used to play down in the arcades on Southsea seafront. I even made my parents buy it for me to play on my Sega Megadrive. I never could quite get my head round Manga comics though. Or roleplaying games. But that’s just as well because there was an important rule with roleplaying: NO GIRLFRIENDS ALLOWED. I fancied myself in love, in the way that 17 year old girls do, and so when he told me he didn’t love me any more I really was heartbroken. It seems silly now but I know I cried for days and days. Somehow though we stayed friends. Not close friends exactly but friends nonetheless. We would always have a nice chat if we bumped into each other and he would always introduce me to whoever he was with as his “ex-girlfriend” even when it had been 10+ years since it was over. I always had a suspicion that was because my appearance had improved drastically since my frizzy Deirdre days, sorry Jules!
In recent years we stayed in touch via the magic of facebook. He’d been a bit unlucky in love over the years and I’d often gently rib him for the fact he was still living at his parents’ house. He would often comment on my status updates too and we’d always have a bit of light hearted banter. Sadly I hadn’t bumped into him for a long time but only the other day he said how he’s in the local precinct every weekend so I knew where to find him. I just took it for granted that that was where he’d always be.
Julian was a lovely guy, fun loving, big hearted, funny and generous, the boy that never quite grew up. I can’t believe he’s gone. Sleep peacefully, Jules xxx
This song always reminds me of Julian. It’s my favourite song by Stone Temple Pilots and it reminds me of him because he bought me the album for my 18th birthday.