"Friends come and go but your family never changes." - that was something that Mike used to say quite often. Usually when he had a pint of lager in his hand!
Mike had lots of casual friends but I think I was the only one he would have called a close friend. He used to work long hours when he was doing up houses so by the time he finished work there was usually not much time left for socialising. It was Mike who introduced me to the hobby of stamp collecting and he had a very fine collection that he left to me in his Will. I think it is probably worth quite a lot of money although I would never even think of selling it. I think the only social event he would always go to was attending the monthly meeting of whichever was his nearest stamp club.
Because he didn't have a family to talk to I always felt that underneath the cheery exterior there was quite a lonely person. In all of the years I knew him he almost never mentioned his birth family. I think he must have had a very troubled time as a youngster and like most men of his and my age he didn't find it easy to talk about his feelings. We used to joke about how few birthday and Christmas cards we used to get but in his case I think his jokes were just a way of hiding that he was feeling sad.
Although he and I had a lot in common we were different in other ways. I always wanted a job where I was working with other people. Mike tended to think of other people as being unreliable so he always did his building projects on his own. I never felt the same amount of restlessness that troubled Mike all the years that I knew him. Wherever it was that he was living it always felt that he was planning his next move to somewhere else. I think he was looking for somewhere or something that he couldn't find.
I don't know for sure where Mike lived before he ended up in St Albans. He had a London accent so perhaps it was from somewhere down there. After he died his solicitor and I went through all his belongings . Mike had stopped his building projects after the bad news from his doctor so he was living in a medium sized flat but it didn't take long for us to realise that Mike had destroyed most of his "made of paper" history in the weeks before he died. I think he must have guessed he was very ill and didn't want people prying into his past once he had gone. The only important name that we could find was the person he left his money too. She was his last-but-one lady friend and she must have got a real shock when the large cheque arrived.