This isn’t a new subject. My old pal, Foggy, and I have been taking a regular country walk most months since we renewed our friendship after an interlude of 42 years when we were distracted by the usual stuff of life. These days he looks like Churchill and I look like one of the Undead.

Yesterday we made a short hike in sunshine, starting in the ancient plague village of Eyam, dragging our invisible tin bath behind us. It took us across fields and stone walls and to the crest of the ridge above Foolow where we had a good pub lunch at the Barrel Inn. All the while we talked family matters (much to discuss after Christmas and New Year) and general nonsense. We laughed a great deal, as we always do, and I suspect we looked like a pair of silly old fellows, which I fancy is what we are. After lunch we dragged the invisible tin bath back down the ridge past the deserted fluorspar works where Scooby Doo and friends discovered Mr. McKenzie was behind all the ghost activity. And so back to the car and home until next time.

Among the Christmas news we exchanged, I told John about meeting some other old friends for lunch at a pub near Darlington this last Sunday: friends we’ve known for decades; one for 50 years since my wife and I first went to university. Much of our conversation was about health and grandchildren. Discussions of health seem to begin all conversations these days, like grace before a meal. Other than the mention of new family details, nothing memorable was said. We are long beyond discussing current affairs or abstract ideas in any depth. I’ve noticed that I am becoming increasingly ignorant and you can be pretty certain that if someone is designated a “celebrity” I shan’t have heard of him or her. David Bowie died this week and I find myself astonished that we are of the same generation and yet his music passed me by. I prefer Cole Porter.

When I told this story to Foggy, it caused me to reflect on old friends and new friends and the difference in our feelings about them. I still have the capacity to make new friends, many of them decades younger than me, and I love them dearly (as to which I don’t suppose I’m any different than anyone else). However what is missing is the sense that I have with old friends, that we have been companions on a long and dangerous journey during which we have been wounded by but survived its many perils together. Or, in a similar vein, that we are castaways on the turbulent ocean filled with the wreckage that seems to be the human condition.

At all events, despite the passage of 50 years, Foggy and I are still afloat in our leaky tin bath. And I’m glad.
14 January 2016