Dearest Rowley. November 2015.

Dear Rowley,

You’ve been reading my nonsense for all these years so, in the spirit of RuPaul, I am going to read you. The library is open. People often ask me who the hell you were so I’m going to tell them. You were a lot taller than me, a lot posher than me and funnier than I ever will be. Your laugh was like Bertie Wooster meets a drunken hyena. You wore glasses but you could see people clearly enough I always found.

When we met, you were the public relations lady for Turnbull & Asser. You didn’t get paid a buffalo nickel but you had many more interests including writing programme notes for the Royal Opera House, giving lectures at the Royal Academy and generally being a life-enhancer all round. You could be a bit catty but nothing like I. I recall my reading Jo Levin in the company of you and Joan Rolls and your eyes showed great alarm. You were loyal.

I don’t like talking about you in the past tense hence my letters but I did have occasion to miss you last night in the company of my darling Mrs T on a bar stool at Sheekey’s Oyster Bar. We were supposed to be going to an awards dinner but thought fuck it, we’d rather share each other’s company at our favourite spot in the world.

We did have a lot of laughs before we’d even ordered the entreĆ©. We never stop talking, looking and passing comment do we? But then you came up as you usually do. It always comes back to how you left us and how we find it hard to forgive. I can’t even recall how long ago it was but it was years. Your husband had died. We’d all barrelled down to Tunbridge Wells (Royal, naturally), for the memorial. I think it was Joan Rolls, Helen Ball and I in the car. Joan was having a row with her ex-husband on the telephone.

You were on fine form my dear. You had lots of Duchess’s nieces in attendance and Dame Monica Mason I believe. You knew exactly how to please those great dames. You just stopped short of curtseying. We all had a few sips in the pub afterwards and I left you looking resigned but OK. That was the last time I saw you.

We did speak on the day before you died. You were holding-up and I wanted to come down and see you to distract you. You said no and now I know why. You had decided to check-out. Mrs T and I still cannot forgive but that is not our prerogative. I believe the police found you in bed with a laptop naked and at peace. Did you leave a note my dear?

It was Mr Miller who called me and asked if I was on Jermyn Street the next day. I was and came-up to the office on Bury Street. Mr M gave me a coffee and then gave it to me cold. ‘Rowley’s dead’. I was so in shock I couldn’t even cry but, boy, did I make up for it last night. I was weeping buckets at Sheekey’s. I wonder what people thought I had just been told…

What I had been told by Mrs T was that not only had Michael died of cancer but you too had been diagnosed in the week you died. Have you ever felt like you’d been punched in gut and winded? My eyes welled-up, my hand rose to my mouth and my eyes popped with horror. If there was a God then I don’t care for him very much. Sadist.

So my sweet you have gone. But not really. I think I still see your smile in the tail of my eye whether I am behaving or misbehaving. You don’t judge but you are the someone who watches over me as is Judy Bennett and Nan Sherwood. I have guardian angels and you are the chief high wing flapper.

So, now the secrets are all out. You had cancer and you thought ‘deal or no deal?’ So you checked out rather than suffered the indignities of treatment that might not have worked. You’re not as tough as me are you? Or maybe you are not such a glutton for punishment. May flights of angels sing you to your rest my love.

Until next time…