When my darling friend Juanita Moore died today I was reminded, amidst my tears, of the Enid Blyton book 'The Naughtiest Girl in the School'.
Not that Juanita was the naughtiest, but she was undoubtedly 'The most Beautiful Girl in the School'.
With long auburn curly hair, a slight wisp of freckles, creamy white skin and a wide generous mouth, she was unforgettable. Juanita Moore, later to be know on Rhodesian Television as Juanita Longhurst.
We were both in Coghlan School together and then in Gladstone House at Eveline High School. Juanita was the sporty one - 'A' Team Tennis Captain, 'A' Team Hockey Captain, and I was the dullard, the back row choristor, the debating society mouse.
And yet she chose ME as her friend, ME above the other sportswomen, the legendary Dawn Plenderleith, Myma Burke, Gail Brownlee Walker...I was her confidant, her buddy, her Best Friend.
How well I remember laying a symbiotic claim to her beauty, shadowing her every mesmeric movement, waiting in the wings for her to be my friend. So reminiscent of Bette Midler in that wonderful film 'Wind Beneath My Wings'.
Her mother was as enigmatic as she was, her father small, dynamic and charismatic.
Those tumultuous red curls, always drawing unwarranted attention from the teachers, popping forth under those silly straw boaters like unruly kisses in the sunlight. Hers was the skirt always that tiny bit too short, hers was the blouse that struggled awry, stealing the limelight, hers were the ugly brown stockings that always showed hints of white flesh in unladylike places!!
With a friendship that already spanned several years, our final school liaison was the Plumtree School Dance. I was dated by the Headboy Simon Haaroff and Juanita was dated by the Sports Captain Johnny Dawson!! Oh how many delicious hours were spent choosing our outfits for that most special of all dates. All the girls were kept in the Sanitorium for a modicum of safety and how many hours were spent, post dance, discussing our wonderful evening
Juanita and I both went our own ways after school, but both worked for Rhodesia Televison and so we kept in touch. Our sons were born within months of each other, our daughters were born within months of each other and they ultimately went to university together!
Sadly, as life does with its cruel twists, Juanita was plagued with infirmity and ill health took her life, but at the end she was surrounded by the people she loved most.
Except for me, thousands of miles away, wishing I could have spent more time with my the beautiful woman who will always remain, My Best Friend.