I’m Bedfordshire bound this weekend to meet up with a couple of the lads I’ve been friends with since I was a 20 year old. A bond forged as work colleagues and friends in both Gateshead and London.

The duo made up of Bill, the nicest bloke I’ve met who possesses false teeth, along with Alan, the nicest bloke I’ve met who’s bereft of false teeth.

According to Alan, the reason he hasn’t got false teeth is due to the daily cleaning of his gnashers with goose fat; followed by flossing with strands of hair from his unkempt bikini line. Although this regime ensures teeth and gums are in reasonable shape for a man of his vintage, the Gateshead lad’s breath could strip gloss from woodwork.

Bill, although older and denture laden, is generally more accomplished at attracting the ladies. The fairer sex rarely able to resist his smooth patter, ready smile, immaculately ironed shirt epaulets and fact he hasn’t got a pubic hair hanging from his molars.

An engaging fella, the Sunderland chap was like a brother to me in my 20’s. Not a close sibling, more like one who turns up to drink your beer, take over the music choices on your Apple Music account and watch bloody darts on TV……. Nevertheless, a brother for whom you’d stand shoulder to shoulder with in the trenches.

It was Bill who taught me that in his Wearside dialect the word make is pronounced mack, and take is pronounced tack. He also told me to be vigilant if a Wearsider asks if I’d like slice of cack – Warning me the same pronunciation formula doesn’t extend to the word cake.

Bill, with a background in panel beating and car mechanics, helped me choose my first car in September 1986. I appreciated his thoughtfulness at ensuring I didn’t buy a dud. That being said, his over-officiousness and meticulous scrutiny of it’s body work and engine annoyingly delayed him okaying the vehicle purchase until March 1988.

Like our older workmate, Alan also exhibits mechanical qualities a plenty. A skillset ensuring he can build almost anything with his beloved Meccano set.….. Well, that’s as long as the construction doesn’t require more than 20 pieces of holed wooden sticks and 60 red plastic nuts and bolts.

When all three of us worked together in Gateshead (1980s), Alan made a Meccano model of our shift manager that was so lifelike, colleagues kept asking the construction when the next team meeting was due to take place. Astonishing craftmanship from another of my ‘jack of all trades’ mentors.

I met both guys in 1983 when starting work as a trainee computer operator in British Coal’s computer section. Both a bit older than me, I was a wet behind the ears boy*** when making their acquaintance.

*** – It peed it down on my walk down from Low Fell to the Team Valley Trading Estate that day.

When yours truly was allocated a place on their shift, they took me under their wing….. To clarify that wasn’t by teaching me my new role. I’m referring to them taking turns at putting me in a headlock if I made peripheral handling or punch card input errors.

Although infrequent, our meetups generally start off where they left off last time we parted, meaning no standing on ceremony or small talk on rendezvous.

As with our gettogether last January, Bill is picking me up on the way from Sunderland prior to our onward sojourn to Bedfordshire.

As a man who drives at a pedestrian pace, I envisage the odyssey south will be significantly longer than the two hours it takes most individuals….… His driving speed last year so slow he was nearly cautioned for kerb crawling on the M1 motorway!