John folded his OS map.  ‘Are you sure it’s safe to go up in this weather?’  

Graham and Alan looked at each other and made girly gestures.

‘Ooh, are you sure it’s safe?’ Alan squealed and exchanged high-fives with Graham.

‘Don’t be such a poof,’ said Alan, tugging a woolly hat over his bald head.

‘OK,’ John sighed, ‘I suppose we have to do it today anyway.’  

‘And why is that?’ asked Alan, throwing his right arm out palm upwards like a TV host introducing a guest.

‘Because it’s thur!’ they all declared.

A little way ahead Jimmy lingered in silence.  It had been his phrase since the first time they had ascended the Great Orm together many years ago. The others had been amused by his Lancashire accent.  

John fastened his North Face jacket, straightened his golf cap and started the ascent up the steep zig-zag path on the North side of the Great Orm, friends in tow.  By the time they had rounded the first bend John and Alan were talking animatedly, hats bobbing; Jimmy was, as usual, the subject. Graham took up the rear, being the chunkiest and quietest of the group.

‘And do you remember the second year, when he came back as man-at-C&A?’  said John.

Alan took his prompt like a footballer receiving a well-timed pass.

‘And he used to pull up his collar as if that made him cool in matching trousers and jacket!’    Above them Jimmy stayed still to let the others narrow the distance to him.   John continued without looking up:

‘What was that girl called that he was chasing after all that term?’

‘Oh yeh!  Tiny little thing from Belfast,’ Alan grabbed at his tall friends sleeve.  ‘She had a funny mouth, what was her name?’

Graham knew. ‘Alison.’

‘That’s right, Alison!’ nodded Alan.  ‘It was so embarrassing.  Remember when he knocked that table over in the refectory following her round like a little puppy dog?’

‘And what about Wendy Big Tits!’  John was in full flight now.  The three laughed and looked up together as they reached the top of another brow.  The way-marker pointed them left and Jimmy silently waved them deeper into the fog towards the summit. Alan looked ahead.  

‘What kind of an idiot wears white track-suit bottoms to climb a mountain?’  

‘And white trainers!’ added John.

‘Twat!’

‘Last year he was the only thing you could see on the whole of the Great Orm!’ Chirped Graham, whose black track-suit matched the dark shades worn by his little and large friends.

Jimmy loitered quietly.  There was no need for him to join in, the act was well-rehearsed and he was still the centre of attention.  

‘It rained last year,’ mused Alan.

John nodded under his golf cap and murmured a few lines from an Elvis Costello song out loud to himself as he trudged through the spongy grass.  The four friends had been to see him together a lifetime ago.

‘Aaalison… I know this world is killing you, oo-ooh Alison….my aim is true.’

Graham stopped to tie his laces, panting as he bent down, his eyes resting on a bright yellow cowslip.

‘We still haven’t decided what to do with the fund,’ said Alan.

‘How much is in it now?’ John said.

‘Four thousand six hundred.’ Alan stated.

‘Four thousand six hundred? £20 each is £80, times twelve is £960 a year, so it must be nearly four years since we set it up.’

‘How interesting, it must be so exciting being an accountant,’ said Alan.

Graham caught up with the conversation.

‘That’s right. It was Easter.  That was the year we went to the Lakes when Jimmy booted the ball into the field with the bull.’

‘Worst penalty I’ve ever seen, ever,’ said Alan.

‘Ever!’ repeated Graham, mimicking Jimmy’s accent.

They returned to their pattern of walking, each concentrating on his footing between scraps of sedge and muddy grass.  Graham fell a little behind and caught a glimpse of the white walls of St. Tudno’s church and its ancient graveyard.  He made a private sign of the cross.

‘We have to do something this year.’  John stated, ‘we really should have started to use the fund by now.’

Alan nodded, ‘I know, we shouldn’t have left it so long, but what’s the appropriate thing?’

‘Well, I suppose we could do the French Open.’

‘Nah, it has to be football really ’cos of Jimmy.’

‘True. Maybe we should go to Old Trafford, see United.’

Above them Jimmy would have smiled if he could hear.  The wind whistled across the mountainside.  A solitary mountain goat tiptoed past, its horns curved almost all the way back to its back.

Alan shook his head, ‘nah, we can’t do that, just ’cos of that twat.  We have to pick a team we all like.’

John paused. ‘Yeh, twat.   He wouldn’t go to the cup final that year when it was Liverpool.’

‘What about Barcelona?’ Alan suggested.

‘That’s a good one.’

‘I’ve never been to the Nou Camp.’

‘Me either.’

‘Jimmy’s the only one that has been.’

‘I was thur!’ John pronounced.  

‘How many times have we heard that story since ’99?’

After a few hundred paces they stopped by an area of purple heather.  Graham puffed his way up to them.  By now Jimmy was out of sight.  Alan took off his rucksack and handed out plastic bottles of water.  Not another soul had ventured out from Llandudno today.  They sipped their water in silence.  Alan sniffed, eyes straining into the mist.

‘It’s drawing in.  Better get up there while we can see where we’re going,’ said John.

They pressed on through the round limestone rocks, John in front and Alan and Graham side by side behind him, close enough that their shoulders almost touched with each matching stride.    Alan rubbed his eyes his eyes and his old team-mate shoulder-barged him causing him to adjust his stride and square up, fists clenched in mock aggression.  
Far below them the sea was smooth and grey and the curved row of hotels in the bay had sunk beneath the clouds.  The only sounds were the regular crunch of their boots and a distant gull calling.  Even the mountain goats seemed to have vacated the hill.  

They followed Tommy’s route under the line of the cable car without further words, each man alone with his thoughts.  The last time they had made this journey Jimmy had been regaling his friends with his latest business idea and they were taking turns to ridicule.  This year the mist was heavier and the walk was undertaken seriously.  They concentrated on their march for a full half an hour, the rhythm of their boots thumping a route that men had walked for thousands of years, passing the cartoon sign for the copper mine museum without a word.  They marched on until the tram station and then the white summit building emerged before them.  

Jimmy was already at the door of the summit café.  There was a chain across the door and a padlock on the flimsy gate to the crazy golf.  Jimmy waved sideways with a referee-final-whistle gesture, his arms wide like aeroplane wings.

‘So what do we do now?’  Alan asked.

‘I suppose we go back down again.’ said Graham with a shrug.

‘Shouldn’t we… you know… do something now that we’re here?’  Alan said with a sniff.  Graham looked up at John with a frown.

Jimmy was on top of a large flat rock, from where the whole bay could be seen on a clear day.  They had taken pictures there last year, Jimmy had pulled funny faces. The mist seemed to lift just for a moment exposing a small patch of blue.  John pointed.  Soon they were all standing by the rock.  Alan took the bottles out again and rubbed his eyes as they all unscrewed their water.

‘Right: Barcelona it is then,’ announced John.

‘When?’ asked Graham.

‘Next time they play Real, I suppose.’

They each took a swig of water in silence.  This time not even the gull interrupted.  It was a true moment of peace, a whole minute.

 Alan wiped his nose on the back of his hand and cleared his throat. Then he cleared his throat again, this time more loudly.

‘Ahem! To Jimmy…the twat.’

‘To Jimmy the twat,’ they toasted in unison, lifting their plastic bottles high above their heads like three World Cups.  

Alan had something else to say and just managed to croak it without his voice breaking.

‘May he rest in peace.’  

John reached down and rested his giant hand on Alan’s shoulder.  Graham looked at the floor.

The gull flew by and squawked.  They all looked up and watched it soar into the distance. Then the three old friends took another swig of water each, replaced the bottles in the bag and set off down the mountainside in silence.
 

 

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