SHORTLY after the New Year, in the millennial absence of the traditional Hibs v Hearts Edinburgh derby, I headed for the town of my teenage years, to take in West Lancashire's pulsating equivalent, Southport v Morecambe. I'll admit to being quite emotional as I stood on the terracing I used to frequent more than 30 years ago.
I was delighted to spot the fathers of quite a few of my schoolday friends. At half-time they came up to speak to me, and I realised they were not the fathers - they were the friends. For all that, they immediately started moaning about the team's performance as if they had seen me the previous Saturday. They'd been here every week since I left; strange how they looked so old, though.
Back in Edinburgh, I looked forward to a gathering of mates from the cricket club I've graced for the past 25 years - Holy Cross Academicals - and here I would hope readers aren't too overwhelmed by the sheer scale of my social outlook. The club celebrates its 50th year in 2000, and a few of the old stagers had been asked to contribute some memories to the official club history.
When the historian produced clip-on microphones, we were fairly convinced that we would be struck uncharacteristically dumb. However, I suppose the wine must have helped, because by the time the clock read 230am, we had to admit that our careers had amassed a significant number of anecdotes - some of them even related to cricket.
There was a high level of agreement in the room on a number of issues: bathroom mirrors were now to be avoided in the morning at all costs; while the hair was receding from our heads with the speed of a third year from a health food option, it was growing at a startling rate from every other orifice; and, in comparison to today's dance scene, even the Monkees were beginning to assume a nostalgia value they had never previously seemed likely to attain.
However, we were also able to achieve that rare distinction for (relatively) sober Scots males, in that we could recognise the bonds that had been forged among us over a couple of decades, while we stood in rainy fields all over central Scotland, convincing ourselves we were sportsmen.
When teachers and others, like Sport Scotland, work to promote the hidden curriculum in our schools, we should remember that this is not just about the elite and talented, or for keeping fit. It's not even solely about the sublime joy of performing to the best of your ability in a creative area. It's also part of the key to building life long friendships through shared experiences. Most of all, it's about daring to dream.