Sometimes I go on trips to see my elder brother, who lives in Shrewsbury, so we can catch up on family matters, the state of the country, Jeremy Corbyn , Donald Trump and why there isn’t anything good on telly any more.
The pattern is that we meet at some neutral venue (often in Manchester or Salford), tramp round a worthy exhibition or gallery then go to the pub.
And we failed to break the pattern when we met in York recently. We started at the National Railway Museum, which, as you would expect, is very handy for York station and for moaning about the state of Britain’s railways, specifically about how most of the network has now been nationalised, but not, unfortunately, by the nation which invented the railways.
There’s now every likelihood that any train you catch will be operated, ultimately, by the Dutch, Chinese, French or German governments and, since the very successful East Coast main line was privatised for failing to fail, as right-wing doctrine said it should, little likelihood that your train will be British.
Not that that will bother the modern Tory party, which is quite unsentimental about the things which made Britain what it is (notably railways, textile mills and slavery) and has been encouraging the Chinese to build our next generation of high-speed trains and nuclear power stations.
And all this was because we, my brother and I, were knocked sideways by the experience of standing right next to the Mallard, the fastest (126mph) steam engine ever built and still looking as shiny and ahead-of-its-time as when it left the Doncaster locomotive works in 1938.
You can see hundreds of photographs of the Mallard without being as struck by its majesty as you are by one glance when it’s within touching distance – just as you don’t realise what a wonder a giraffe is until you see one for real, which, incidentally, is why I think zoos are necessary for people, especially children, who will never go on safari.
I don’t know of any solid evidence that zoo giraffes are unhappy about being fed regularly and kept safe from predators and I tend to think the idea that the freedom to roam is the right of every creature is a product of the human, rather than the giraffe, imagination, although giraffes are rather enigmatic, so I could be wrong.
After the museum, the pub; in this case a tiny, cheerful, very crowded, unpretentious place with ancient beams and thick, rough-plastered walls. It was down a down a side-alley, picked entirely at random and, since I didn’t notice its name, would be impossible for me to find again.
There we met, entirely by coincidence, my friend Amanda, who lives in Northern Ireland , and her brother Neil, who lives in Tadcaster; so there she was with me from Leeds and my brother from Shrewsbury and I felt inclined to shout out ‘What are the chances of this happening?’
But I suppressed that thought because I realised that actually it’s not very surprising that four people practised in the art of sniffing out interesting pubs should end up queueing at the same bar.