Simon came from a family of four boys. It was a functional but undemonstrative family, and a family that didn't share its feelings. The closest thing my mother in law got to sentimentality was to recall how at the start of each school year there were four sets of clean school shoes laid out (by her) on the bottom step. Yes, she did a great job. She raised four polite and ostensibly functional boys.
George was also one of four boys, from a military family, sent off boarding school with, I imagine, a similar crisp sense of proper grooming and behaviour. Like Simon's family one or other of them have suffered with mental health issues from time to time.
Despite the intimacies George and I shared online the reality of him was one of functional, polite, respectful base-covering kindness with really no personal connection whatsoever, and it suited him to keep it that way. "I've left a bottle of cold wine in the fridge", "Stay as long as you like".
Somehow I see a common root in these two men with whom I tried to get close. A perhaps peculiarly English need to not show emotion and to soldier on. Both men are quite patently vulnerable inside but bury it so deep as to deny its existence. Further they chose to somehow shut down when I show my own vulnerabilities. Even to the point of mocking me for the (to them) weakness of showing my feelings. I first thought of this post back in August, but I was reminded somewhat of the sentiment again by Alain de Botton on "How to be warm". A lesson they could perhaps both take.