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THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Too close the call

Al Gilkes

THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Too close the call

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This has not been an exciting weekend for me, after reading fellow columnist Richard Lowdown Hoad’s depressing account on Friday about his close encounter of an unearthly kind.
Once we reach or pass a certain age, we accept that we have arrived at the airport of the great beyond and, depending on the state of our health, we understand that we are at the point where we are either getting our bags from the trunk; at the counter being checked in; having our passports checked by immigration; having our carry-on bags and other items scanned by customs; sitting in the departure lounge waiting for our flight to be called; have already boarded, taken our seats, watched and listened to the hostess take us through the safety procedures; or are hearing the captain welcome us on board and telling us that we are on our way to the runway and the inevitable take-off.
It is a very unnerving and frightening experience, and Richard cleverly hid it in his column under the cloak of his unique humour, to be here “tonow” and all but gone the next minute, whether by accident, or stroke or heart attack.
I was made very aware of my own mortality very early in life when I found myself on board a flight to the great bye and bye at age 21. My seat belt was already fastened, the safety instructions already given and the plane already on the runway, its engines roaring and ready for take-off.  
However, Somebody up there decided to give me a second chance and I was taken off the flight and eventually sent home with a diagnosis from the doctors that I would be back on board and heading into the skies by the time I reached age 30.
It would seem that Somebody up there still likes me because my flight has not yet returned.
I do sincerely hope that Richard’s flight will be cancelled and not be called again for a long, long time to come. Our relationship spans many decades and goes back to our entering Harrison College as ten-year-olds in khaki short pants. His favourite story about me in that institution is about the day when I was caught collecting cinema fare by charging boys like himself and “Bunny” Best a penny each for a peep at the centrefold of a Playboy magazine hidden inside my desk.
Unfortunately, an unseen “master” (teacher) in great horror uncovered my entrepreneurial enterprise, threw the magazine out the window and dispatched me to the headmaster’s office for the hot tamarind rod.
Our paths went in opposite directions after College, but it wasn’t long before we again were sharing a common stage in life as musicians. The most recent such stage has been as columnists.
So, Lowdown, it doesn’t matter if you have to remain at a depressing 6:30 and never again experience a sweet quarter-to-seven. What matters is that you hang in there and I know I speak for all readers when I say we are all praying for your full recovery.