There is a saying that we enter this world alone and we depart in similar fashion. This seems a rather depressing analysis of our time on earth. Once born we are exposed to society. Our birthplace and family environment shape our early view of the world. 

Some of us are lucky enough to have been born and brought up in a warm friendly caring environment. For others their arrival in the world is far more traumatic. Our background shapes our world view. Developing friendships is the way we move beyond the family circle. If we make good friends they can last a lifetime. If we make the wrong choices we could take a very different path with poor outcomes. 

Throughout my long life I have been fortunate to have made many friends from a wide range of backgrounds. 

As the years rush by many friendships fall by the wayside. Those that remain are mainly people I have known nearly all my life. Such friends know you inside out. They know your good and your bad characteristics and accept you just as you are good and bad. 

One of my closest friends whom I have known for 70 years walked with me across Spain in 2010. We were both walking to raise money for our respective local hospices. We could rightly be classed as two strong personalities with views on just about everything. 

As typical men we obviously usually thought our personal ideas were the right ones. If you spend a month together 24 hours every day you need a strong friendship to survive the inevitable ups and downs when engaging on an 800 kilometre walk. To the amazement of our respective families we enjoyed the adventure in total harmony. 

What that meant in practice was that we had total respect for each other and real concern for each other’s welfare.  

Our early morning starts would see us leave just before dawn to trek roughly 20 kilometres a day for 30 days non-stop. Very quickly we would engage in a heated discussion. The topics would be debated with vigour each determined to make his point.  Eventually a coffee stop would arrive. After “Coffee solo” the debate would end. Positions probably would not have shifted. As we set off to continue the walk that debate would fade from memory and another would emerge. 

Our walk would encounter burning hot Spanish sun and cold driving snow in the mountains. In the snow my friend walked in front of me to shield me from the gale. 

Later I helped him with heat exhaustion.  There was never any rancour or bad feelings between us. We have come to accept each other as individuals. That is true friendship.

In the past I have had what might be termed fly by night friends.  They came and went quickly. 

Lifelong friends are a wonderful gift. Distance inevitably comes as we grow up and leave home and seek career opportunities. 

Lifelong friends do not abandon each other just because they now live many miles apart. They still take an interest in your growing family and your health and welfare. 

Friendship is thus something dear to be cherished. A true friend gives unconditional love and support. They do not envy each other’s success or gloat over their own good fortune.  

If such individual relationships could be transferred to the wider world just ponder the possibilities, Israel and Palestine could live in peace each following their own religion and customs respecting the right of their neighbours to have their own belief systems.  

Protestants and Catholics have fought each other for centuries to the advantage of nobody. Why Russians and Ukrainians cannot share the vast tracks of land in northern Europe as friends sharing many common cultural traditions is tragic. 

Friendship is not complicated.  It is a simple process – how lucky we are to have friends.