I have just had the great good fortune to have spent a few days in the Scottish Highlands. The weather was magnificent - warm and sunny but still capable of turning from balmy into brutal in the blink of an eye - and the late spring meant that we were surrounded by the manifestations of nature desperate to make up for lost time. The gorse was rampantly in flower, so the landscape - dark and brooding most of the year - took on a puckish, bright yellow hue, the bluebells were still out, and you got the sense that the natural world was in such a hurry, such a ferment, that things were growing before your very eyes.
The purpose of the trip, organised by an extremely generous friend of mine, was to play golf, but it was much more than that. We played some of the best golf courses in the world, and were quartered in the stately surroundings of a castle on the shores of Loch Ness. It was part Downton Abbey, part Tin Cup, part Animal House, an appropriate metaphor given that most of the party of eight were in the movie business.
We'd play golf by day - and, as it doesn't get dark in this part of the world until about 11pm, that meant a lot of daytime, and an awful lot of golf - and we'd sit around talking nonsense all night. Except that we wouldn't. We talked about politics. We talked about religion. We talked about sport. For the most part, I listened to the quiet, Californian drawl of one of the giants of the movie business, the Hollywood agent, Jim Berkus.
At my age - let's just say the wrong side of 50 - it's easy to kid yourself that you know everything, that you've had enough life experience to know what you like, and how to deal with most situations. But then, when you meet someone of real wisdom and perspicacity, you realise how many of your judgements are clouded by prejudice and resentment.
Jim is 67 years old, and it is fair to say he has seen life in all its many colours. His world view is informed by an inspiringly positive attitude to life. I have found that most men - and this is especially true of those with high-powered careers offering an enviable lifestyle - are only too keen to tell you how difficult their life is, what a nightmare etc, etc. I said to Jim that he must find his job very stressful, dealing with the egos of his clients and the ball-breaking demands of the studios. "I have the best job in the world," he countered. "I get to hang out with interesting, creative people, and it makes me a good living. What could be better? We see people who are rich and famous, and we look at their lives with envy. But if only we knew the whole package, the private unhappiness or the friendless existence, we might not feel so jealous. We might be content with what we've got. What's more," he continued, using suitable language, "if you are on the back nine of life, you might as well enjoy yourself."