A FRIEND in need is a blasted nuisance," so goes the corrupted version of the saying. What the phrase in its original form does is to turn this colloquialism around.
"A friend in need is a friend indeed," is a statement that the ones who stand by you in times of trouble are those whom you can truly regard as friends.
With this in mind I failed a good friend completely through self-interest when I was needed, and the real shame of the matter was that a quiet word from me in the appropriate ears would probably have stopped the whole thing before it really had the chance to get going.
By that time the bullying, for that is what it had become, had spread throughout the school and I could well have stopped it from even germinating – I didn't.
Dad's job was relocated when I was halfway through junior school and we had to move with it. This took me away from family and all the friends with whom I had grown up. It was a time of major upheaval when you are nine going on ten, and I looked forward with trepidation to my first day at a new school where all the other pupils knew each other and I, as a newcomer, was the focus of interest for some 250 minds.
Mum and Dad took me in that first morning and the headmaster was a welcoming friendly face. My parents were assured that I would be well looked after and one of the boys in what was now "my year" was summoned to take me to my class.
Mr Hardy, the headmaster, had the kind of comically stern manner which he carefully cultivated towards the children and they obviously loved him for it.
"Ah, Hawksworth come here, boy!"
David Hawksworth was two weeks older than me, about my height, bespectacled and with light brown hair. He stood to attention in mock response to the command.
"Take Peter Nelson to Mrs Graham's class, lad, and don't lose this one. It took us ages to find the last unfortunate we trusted to your care." ...
A published collection of short stories by Neal James is titled 'Short Stories - Volume One'