I'm not quite sure how to word this, so apologies if this doesn't read very well.
Everybody has different friends that they have known for different lengths of time. That is just the way life is. Using myself as an example, this year already I have made four new friends - people that I had never met before until this year, and have got on well enough with them to consider them a friend. Then there are the Friends I have made since living in Sturminster Newton, whom I have only known for less than 2 years. Going slightly further back are the Friends I have made since I have lived in Dorset - which is just over 6 years.
I also have friends that I have known since I was living in Essex. In years these "Essex" Friends (many of whom are now scattered far and wide) have known me and been my friends from between 11 and 36 years.
So I have many friends, but have known them for varying lengths of time. But I'll come back to them in a minute.
I am firmly of the opinion that as I go through this life, I get better and better at being me. That might sound big headed, but it isn't meant to be. All I mean is that when I look back at where I have come from as a person, I am almost a totally different person in some respects.
This might come as a shock to some people, but I haven't always been he funny, intelligent, handsome man you all know and love. Certainly growing up and during my school years, I didn't have a very enjoyable time. Now this isn't a sob story, and I definitely do not want any sympathy, as plenty of kids I knew were worse off than me in certain ways. I'm just saying what I feel inside.
I had no confidence, I stood out because I was tall, didn't have many real friends, got bullied quite a lot, and had a different focus on life due to how things were at home. I didn't follow fashion, or music, and just didn't feel like other kids my age. To be honest, I was a naive loser. Well, looking back that is how I see myself back then now.
And then at the tender age of 18, I met my best Friend, who treated me like shit and bullied me into shape. I discovered my sense of humour, and found that I was a god at playing in goal for 5-a-side football. My confidence grew, as did my common sense, and I began to enjoy life. There were hiccups along the way as everybody experiences, but that is life. 5-a-side playing led to 11-a-side playing, and a feeling of belonging to a group. Thursday night football training, followed by a KFC on the journey home was the highlight of my week.
Then I fell in love, and moved to Dorset. I made new Friends and had a partner that love me. And although that relationship would eventually end - due to failings on both our parts - I was never going to leave Dorset.
And all through my life I have been evolving as a person - and certainly in terms of my own feeling of self worth, I have got better and better and better. And I continue to do so - but not alone.
I have evolved because of the friendships I have made. Like a plant needs nurturing to grow, I have been nurtured by the friendships - and love, because there are many friends that I have a love for, and I feel the love from - that I have enjoyed over the years.
From Liz Clapp, who has known me the longest of all my friends, to Tomas and Steph who I met about a month ago, but have taken to me like we've known each other years.
From my best mate - who hasn't seen eye to eye with me (and vice versa) on many things, but who I can pick up our friendship with after 7 years just like I'd seen him yesterday.
To Katie Beale, who is my second longest distance Friendship (Your number one Martin Cook), and even though we only text once in a while, and inspire of the fact that at one time I confessed undying love for her - several times - she remains my friend.
The friends I have huge love for: my best friend (obviously), but also Jay and Ali, Harriet and Stan, Heather and Peter, and of course Alyn and Emma - all of whom have been so kind and lovely to me without ever asking for anything in return.
To those school friends that I appear to have made closer bonds with in recent years than at School.
My Friends are the fabric of my life, and there are so many others that I have not mentioned above that mean do much to me.
I imagine my life as a day - I was born in the morning, I'm roughly at Midday now, and will die (hopefully) late at night. If it turns out I die at 12:23 in the afternoon, I shall be pissed off.
And the minutes and seconds that tick by are the people that mean something to me, and the experiences I have had through meeting them.
And as I look back from now, Midday in my life, at the morning that I have had, all I can say is - What a Morning!
You, my friends, have helped me become the person I am today, and you will help me to develop into the person I am meant to be.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you.