Ian is my oldest friend. I've known him for over fifty years. As children we lived within a mile of each other in an obscure part of Lincolnshire called the Isle of Axholme (I've written about the Isle of Axholme and my childhood roots before on this blog). We went to the same infant school, primary school and secondary school. We both studied German at university — Ian at Manchester, and me at Durham. For a long time Ian has been living and working in Germany, where he is well known in the arcane world of antique clocks. Take a look at the list of his articles, lectures, projects and restorations. It's all a closed book to me, and I just stand on the sidelines, totally awestruck at his specialised knowledge and ability.
Although Ian visits the UK quite regularly to see his mother (who is is 98 this year), we'd lost contact a little, and hadn't seen each other for a long time. Then, suddenly, one evening a few weeks ago, Carmen and I started to reminisce about old times and old friends. I don't suppose we'd consciously mentioned Ian for a while, though he was always at the back of our minds. The very next morning, Carmen was looking through the living room window, when a figure appeared at the gate. It was Ian. His VW had broken down, it had been taken to a nearby town where he'd picked up a replacement car, and this he drove straight to where we lived. We had a lovely afternoon, and a few days later he returned, and we visited Doddington Hall near Lincoln, where we spent another great day.