Jim and I go back some 15 years. He’s that forty something ten year old friend that no-one should be without.
Imagine my delight, then, when he told me he was coming up to walk with me.
Flushed with his recent success on entering the 21st century by opening up a Facebook account, Jim suddenly had in his possession a mobile phone.
It was like giving Neanderthal man his first shot of fire.
As I wound my way to Melvich, a small village with a campsite, I was slightly disappointed, but not entirely surprised that I hadn’t heard from him and that all my efforts to phone him or his wife had been thwarted by a lack of answer or poor phone reception in these mountainous northern regions.
I heard from Maggie first. Jim had now managed to switch the phone on and I was assured I would be hearing from him shortly.
My phone rang and it was him – telling me he’d be with me in about 3 hours and that he was bringing beer with that wonderful smile in his voice interspersed with that excitement felt when, as a teenager, you’d been invited to a party with the promise of alcohol and members of the opposite sex.
He told me he’d phone when he got near.
I’m smiling as I remember the change in my demeanour from contentment to that anticipatory excitement that you get when you know your friend’s coming to play.
Over the years I think we’ve become closer and closer. Together we’ve enjoyed arsing around, enjoying his home brew, axe throwing (I’ll tell you all about that one day) – it was he and Maggie that pointed me in the direction of taking no money with me on my journey – much in the same way that Satish Kumar had on his peace march in the ‘60’s.
It’ll come as no surprise to you then that, even without him phoning, I could somehow sense – possibly spiritually – when he was nearing me.
That, or the fact that as soon as he’d seen me from nearly a mile away he’d started blasting his horn – bringing his van to a handbrake turn and stop on the gravelly drive just in front of me.
In no time we were hugging and laughing like idiots.
He took Darth 2 the last half mile to the campsite – allowing him to prepare the food and cider and beer before I arrived.
We drank and ate and laughed. God it was good to see him.
We went to the pub next to the campsite and suddenly Jim was pulled into the world of Walk a mile.
We got chatting to a friendly American chap, David, who liked our story and offered us the use of the caravan next to his house the following night.
After a health conscious breakfast of chocolate trifle and bananas we were on our way.
Jim insisted that he should carry Darth 2 most of the way.
Expletives deleted – he felt that the back pack was indeed weighty. No worries, it gave us the perfect reason to stop off at a quaint old pub for some refreshments.
When we neared the area where we believed David stayed it became quite clear that we didn’t know his actual address or his phone number. This was problematic because we’d left a whole bunch of stuff in the van thinking we wouldn’t need it because we’d be happily ensconced in David’s caravan. Including the tent.
In no time at all we were wondering if David actually lived in this area at all – especially since we were unable to find a house and caravan combo that had been described to us in our drunken haze.
At a point near where we believed David lived we came across a small settlement of about 6 houses.
One of which had a man on the garden.
“Hello, er, do you know David?” we began in our lost teenagerly way.
As Paul – the man in his garden – looked skywards for inspiration, we threw other helpful words at him –
“American” “Software engineer” and “Scotty dogs” just about covered our joint recollections.
As I was still inwardly cursing myself for not having David’s phone number or address, Paul said,”I think I know – I just need to consult with my better half…”
“We know him,” she said, “he lives just over this hill here – do you want a cup of tea?”
Jim responded the way I would have 4 months ago,”No thanks…”
“Yes, that would be lovely,” I jumped in.
We spent a lovely half hour or so chatting to this friendly Liverpudlian couple and their daughter – telling them what we were about and hearing about their move up to Scotland, their boy and the space school in Leicester – you what??
Space school in Leicester – go and look it up.
Jim tried to turn down the offer of biscuits – but failed – I now turn nothing down – except maybe celery.
Paul decided to guide us across the half mile or so of moorland over to David’s house.
As we walked with him I was struck by the levels of trust we had for these people we’d never met.
David could have just made up his location, identity and his offer of hospitality.
Paul could have been taking us up onto the barren moors to shoot us.
Thankfully, neither of these sad fantasies bore fruit – as Paul walked off, David appeared, greeting us like old friends.
He apologised for the gate to his garden being closed – he’d had an invasion of cows earlier.
We were also greeted by his small pack of black Scotty dogs – who acted just like that – a pack of dogs. I’ve never seen such a happy bunch of beasties.
“Do you want to go in the hot tub?” David asked us, pointing to the large construction at the end of his garden.
Jim and I were naked in about 30 seconds as we plunged into the soothing warm water in the converted whiskey barrel.
It was wonderful, if not a little surreal, as the aches and pains from a days walking were lifted away.
He invited us in to his wonderfully quirky home that he shares with his German wife who was away on business.
The walls were adorned with a variety of goodies from pots and pans to pictures of Buddha to martial arts equipment.
After chatting for a while, David asked if we’d like something for tea –
Jim immediately and automatically declined. He has some learning to do, I think.
David took him at his word and then smiled as I readily accepted the offer of salmon, pasta and a chilli sauce.
David’s work in computing has primarily been with banks – he had been due to do a presentation at the trade towers in New York on 9/11, but had changed his mind in favour of some work in Europe.
He is convinced that the story we have been told about that terrible day in 2001 is false and that there was more than a little involvement by the US government in the whole affair.
He got us to watch some of the film I think was called the myth of 9/11.
I’m not a fan of the conspiracy theory – but I did find it compelling. Go and cast an eye over it yourself – it’s on you tube.
David is still clearly angry about what happened.
Over tea we chatted about the banks and banking – David, who is clearly a guy who knows a lot about a lot, took some time to describe to us what hedge funds and the like are.
Although I’m none the wiser I feel I tend to agree with him when he said that the collapse of the banks was due to cheating, morally void, egotistical bastards…
I may be paraphrasing a little there…
…and not the frivolous spending of the public sector and their gold-plated pensions.
We finished the evening talking about Buddhism and watching some video of a Buddhist teacher talking about his religion/ philosophy.
Jim didn’t realise he was asleep until he woke with a start next to me on the sofa.
Time for bed then. But what an eclectically educating evening.
He was asleep next to me in the caravan instantly.
I woke up later in the morning to find I was sharing my bed with 5 Scottish terriers.
We left David shouting to his dogs – his lovely happy Scotties who answer to names like Dharma (the application of Buddha’s teachings in ones life) and Mr Crinkles (Mr Crinkles).
Jim left, all too soon, with his head buzzing with all that had gone on and our sharing of our hopes and dreams.
It was a fantastic couple of days.
Go on, try it….
Walk a mile