With a coal black stove pipe beard and a claret red shirt to complement his breath, Gilbert led me onto the forest and showed me my first crab apple tree.
Of course, I'd seen these trees many times before, but being a feckless youth I'd never troubled myself with trying to put a name to them.
So Gilbert, worse for wear although it was only 4 in the afternoon, did it for me.
He carried a wicker basket in the crook of his very brown arm. Naturally, he'd made the basket with his own fair hands. 'Look' he said. 'There's a crab apple tree.'
I looked at the tree and somehow I knew it was obviously so.
We walked along the white ridge and it came into my head to lead Gilbert to the cave made out of bricks that, if you were especially sharp eyed, could be found in a bank hidden by bracken.
Of course, it wasn't really a cave.
After all, primitive man would hardly have made a cave using red bricks and mortar.
No. These were were the sophisticated materials belonging to modern men like me, unable to name a crab apple tree that I'd passed nearly every day, and men like Gilbert, perpetually half-cut from trying to find a place to blend in, not be noticed in, in the dying light of the twentieth century.