Since the start of lockdown, I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude. It seems to keep cropping up in various ways in my life (obviously, as a good scientist, I attribute this to the Baader Meinhof effect, rather than a sign from the universe). I could, and probably will one day, spend a blog talking about that….. But not today.

Last week when I visited the Buddhist Centre I had my first experience of order members rejoicing in each other and was able to practice rejoicing in someone else. It was an inspiring experience and one I wish to oft repeat. So, I’m going to start now….

I want to rejoice in these two fabulous creatures that I am lucky enough to call my friends. In particular I would like to rejoice in Martin (on the right). I have known Martin for over 20 years now. I’ve known him longer that I’ve not known him. We bonded in a partially flooded youth hostel in Castleton where the word Kack was the height of swearing and my navigation skills set the tone for the rest of our friendship (do you remember the time we drove south to reach Leeds, darling?)

Martin enriches my life in ways that are hard to describe. He has, on several occasions been the voice of sanity when my own voices were not. He showed remarkable patience in those days by never, so far as I recall, telling me outright that I was fucking bonkers. He is also a terrible influence and brings out a side of me that I never knew I possessed (nor anyone else, I suspect). At ‘Drownload’ festival in an unknown year, I think we did a passable impression of Withnail and I for a week (‘Darling, I just want to point out 3 key things: Those are not your wellingtons, they are on the wrong feet, and you are trying to put them on backwards.’) Oh yes, and Martin can make me laugh. Jaw-aching, stomach muscle-pulling, people-look-at-you-to check-if you’re-okay laugh. Like the time someone threw a coat over his roast dinner in the pub. Or the time we met Brian Blessed’s long-lost-twin (also in a pub, I’m starting to see a theme here), or (Oh God) our trip to Giggleswick where I shamelessly sledged the woman who tried to sell us biodynamic wine and Martin lost the world’s most expensive jar of chutney.

I also feel that this is a golden opportunity to share a top tip for anyone wanting to help a friend who is in the grip of a major depressive episode. Martin did one of the most low-key but important things that anyone did for me during that period. He sent me his Netflix login.

In order to tenuously keep the theme of the bucket list, I would like to point out that this photograph was taken at Manchester Pride (we don’t just dress like that for a trip to the local, you know….) in 2018. But I cannot mention that without also mentioning my friend I~. We had lost touch for several years before a mutual friend recommended he read my blog. Long story short, I dragged him all the way to Manchester for a gay day out. In return he dragged me to his neck of the woods to experience Bongo’s Bingo, which to this day remains the gayest thing I have ever done. I am immeasurably grateful for his friendship too.

So, to summarise, Martin – thank you for being in my life all these years. For never giving up on me and for getting me into more scrapes than anyone else (except, possibly, G, but that’s a story for another day). For forgiving me for the numerous times I’ve tried to kill you whilst horse riding (in fairness, you did even things up by nearly braining me with a horse shoe in France). And for assisting in ticking off #16 – Attend Gay Pride.

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