Last year I received a contact message out of the blue from an old friend, John Stinton, whom I knew from my late teens when we used to drink together at the Woodman pub in Ashton-under-Lyne. More than 40 years had gone by and we’d turned into elderly geezers, but we immediately struck up a rapport and resumed the old warmth of our friendship.

These days – for the last year or so – it expresses itself in not especially strenuous country walks every couple of months; indeed we did one last Friday, which is what sparks this blog. We stride the lower slopes of the Pennines and take lunch in country pubs, and chat about family and old times and nothing especially significant. We wear scruffy clothes, woolly hats and dirty boots and laugh a lot.

Two things have come out of this. One is a realisation of how I value old friends as I now become older. And the second is that John and I have becomes like the characters in Last Of The Summer Wine – indeed I call him Foggy and he calls me Compo. It was a series I always enjoyed, but in the past it didn’t resonate with anything in my own experience. Now it does. I suppose it’s an example of a general principle that every work of art has to be enjoyed at the right time if it’s to have any depth of meaning. I enjoyed D H Lawrence when I was in my teens. Now I find him rather ridiculous. I don’t say either perspective is correct.

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