About two years ago I bumped into someone who asked me, ‘How many friends have you got in Facebook?’ I told him, ‘Nearly one hundred.’ He made a disdainful sort of noise that involved him rolling his eyes, lifting up his hands, palms upwards and bouncing his shoulders like Mike Yarwood used to do when he was mimicking Ted Heath. He then said, ‘Only one hundred! What’s up with you, I’ve got nearly a thousand.’ I didn’t say what I wanted to, but I did think afterwards that I didn’t even know three people in his street who might admit to being this man’s friend. If he’d told me that he had a thousand people who weren’t his friend, I might better have believed him, because he was a right curmudgeonly so and so, the sort you would dread meeting at a bus stop if they were running late.
So, how do we go about meeting new friends in this age of social media, when people seem to be prepared to put all sorts of stuff about their personal lives on shared screens for people they hardly know to see?
For the last four years or so I’ve been a member of ‘The CAT Club’, a group of middle aged blokes who meet every other Tuesday to listen to old vinyl LPs in a converted garage. These record listening clubs have become a bit of a social phenomenon in recent times and they are springing up all over the country (we are proud to say that the one in Pontefract was one of the first). Put simply, we meet up. have a right old chin wag about the state of the world and then sit in silence – apart from the noise of beer being sipped – while we listen to the crackle and pop of old vinyl playing The Beach Boys or Bob Dylan or whatever we bring. We take it in turns to choose.
A few weeks ago I received an email from a record listening club in Glossop in the Peak District to ask me if I would be interested in presenting my favourite LP to their club, who meet in the Labour Club in that old market town. I wrote back to say, ‘Why don’t we go one better and I’ll bring our whole club with me?’ Last Thursday we hired a mini bus and seven of us made a trip to Glossop on a cold March night. Now, you might think it is pushing the boundaries of eccentricity to make a one hundred mile round trip to sit and listen to a record with a load of folk who we don’t know, sup a few beers and then come home again in the early hours, over the Woodhead Pass that was already threatening with swirling snow, but that’s what we did and we had a grand time.
Simon Galloway who runs the Glossop Record Club gave us a lovely warm welcome, as did the thirty odd members of all ages and backgrounds who came to say hello and listen to my battered old copy of Billie Holiday’s LP Songs for Distingué Lovers. And Glossop Labour Club is a tremendous asset to its community. It’s a club not affiliated to any political party, one of the oldest in this country, and it puts on all sorts events from ‘the people’s kitchen’ to creative writing evenings, a sewing circle and acoustic music sessions. There are no telly in the club, no gambling machines and the ale is spot on. We all tried and enjoyed a beer called ‘North End Bitter’ a very local brew made by a farmer to celebrate Glossop North End’s arrival at the semi-final stage of the FA Vase.
It was one of those nights that stay with you for a long time after, an enjoyable, lively do, in a fine, vibrant and inclusive venue with nice people. We have already invited our friends at Glossop Record Club to pay us a return visit and they said they are looking forward to coming to Pontefract. Apparently one of their number has a part share in the mini bus that Glossop North End use for away matches, so they will probably fill it. I suppose we could have just made friends on Facebook and uploaded and ‘shared’ our music, but that wouldn’t be the same would it?
I’m now looking forward to seeing how Glossop North End get on in their semi-final first leg away at St Austell in Cornwall*, before that they have a tricky midweek away league fixture at Winsford United to fulfil. I hope the players and their bus come through it unscathed. I can see a nice little twin town arrangement between Glossop and Pontefract beginning to take shape. I suppose what I’m trying to say here is that friendship is not just about making requests, more about making an effort.
Click play above to listen to highlights from The CAT Club trip to Glossop.