Monday, September 28, 2009


Every so often, you have a day that takes you back to your 1970s childhood. When the sky is blue, your cares seem not to exist, pleasures are simple and everything flows.

One such day for me was Saturday as I hooked up with five old friends to climb Whernside in the Yorkshire Dales. We had come together from all points of the compass on Friday night to meet in Kettlewell, a stone-built village tucked between high ridges of millstone-grit. We have all bar one been at university together and our friendships span the last 20 years.

One of the good things about men as they get older is that they become less competitive and almost more feminine in their approach to friendship. There is great care taken to include, no bragging or ragging people to discomfort - the things about all-male company I have often struggled with in younger years. Also, beneath the beery bluster, there is a shared recognition of our connection and its meaning as the years take us forward.

The Dales were magical. Tucked away in the north of Yorkshire, they are less trodden than the Lakes and the Peaks but just as captivating. In the bright September sunshine, we ascended Wherneside and rested at its peak, with the Lakes rising visible on one side and Wharfedale spread out beneath us. We all sat in silence for a few moments, surveying, each in their own place, in tacit appreciation.

If there is one thing I have learned as I have become a little older, it is that life is precious. Even the difficult, anxious times. A choice between life and no-life, even a trying one, is, for me, no contest. The fact of life is a joy and a privilege, something lost on me in my youth, but something I now feel quite fiercely.

And never more so than at moments like this.

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