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  • Writer's pictureMatt Woodcock

#32 Companion.

Over this lockdown year, I've walked with all kinds of people.

Friends, family, congregation members, spiritual seekers and even my old football manager from my teenage years.

But, as lockdown eases and one to one walks become less necessary, I wondered if I could choose anyone to do a final stroll with - alive or dead - who would it be?

So, here are my #TopFiveFriday fantasy lockdown walking companions:

5. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.

Caravaggio was a ground-breaking 16th Century Italian artist. A master of shadow and light, he revolutionised the way people were painted (particularly Jesus Christ). A boozer and a brawler, Caravaggio was the original flawed genius. Chaos and trouble followed him everywhere. His paintings move me deeply. On our walk, I’d ask him about the origins of his pioneering techniques and what he actually thinks about the Jesus he spent so much time painting. We'd definitely stay off the booze, though.

4. Mary Oliver.

I’d love a stroll in the woods with this incredible poet. Sublime, observant and deeply spiritual, her work has become a daily companion. The outdoors was Mary Oliver's muse. She’d go out early with her notebook and pen and let nature speak to her. I suspect she’d have a lot to point out to me on our walk. Things I’d never noticed or properly seen. I reckon she’d inspire me to scribble down some thoughts in my own notepad, too.

3. Gazza.

The most thrilling footballer of all time. For all his faults and off the field issues, for me, the way Gazza played and delighted in the game remains unmatched. No other player I’ve seen had such an effortless gift to stir our senses, quicken the heart and melt us with anticipation every time he got the ball. As we wandered, I’d ask him about that sensational goal against Scotland in Euro 96 and his unstoppable FA Cup-winning year at Spurs. I’d take a ball, too. A kickabout with Gazza in West Bank Park? Dreamland!

2. St Cuthbert.

My favourite saint. St Cuthbert lived in the 7th Century and was a great combination of proper spiritual heavyweight and real man of the people. His prayer life was extraordinary. He’d spend all night crying out to God - up to his neck in seawater to keep him awake. In the morning Otters would apparently warm and dry his legs as he lay on the sand. I love the way Cuthbert reached out, connected to and spent proper time with the poorest and most uneducated people. He left them feeling loved and treasured by God. On our walk, I’d ask him his views on the church today and seek his counsel. I’d then get him to pray for me - on dry land.

1. Noel Gallagher.

I’ve often fantasised about walking with Oasis’ Commander-in-Chief. Noel’s songs have soundtracked most of my adult life. I’d make sure we walked slowly to savour the moment. I’d bombard him with geeky questions about the intricacies of my favourite b-sides and ask him what some of the lyrics mean. I’d want to know his favourite ever live performance and why, as someone who’s so publicly sniffy about God, his songs refer to him so much. But more than anything, I’d want to encourage him to make the peace with his younger brother. And then, before we parted, I'd ask the question millions of us want a positive answer to:

‘When are you getting the band back together?’

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