Monday, 15 July 2019

All things tire of themselves

I was mentored for the first twenty or so years of my career by the playwright Sir Arnold Wesker. He was a very important figure in my life. We wrote a musical, a radio play, and several art songs together. He was always trying to get me to set one particular poem he'd written to music, but, as a twenty-something, I didn't understand it well enough to set to music. In my 30s, I allowed it to remain in a book on my shelf. When he died, I felt sad that I'd never carried out his great wish.

Many things have become very clear in the last few days. And dear Arnold's poem has suddenly made sense.

He mentored me in life and now he mentors me from the grave. Thank you, Arnold. You will forever be in my heart.

All things tire of themselves
Be comforted, be glad
Not only the singer's joy
But the demagogue's tongue
The revolutionary's fervour
All that makes love sad
And passion
Be comforted, be glad

Be comforted
That all things tire of themselves
For with recrimination, rancour,
Ease fierce longings for revenge
Small satisfactions of spite
Not only hope, despair also
And the night.
All tire of themselves
Be glad be comforted

Be comforted.
Though confidence falters
Holy grails fade
And sin.
Contempt withers
The sneer dissolves
Bored cynics expire.
Unhappiness wearies also
And ranters wear their shrillness thin
And things all things tire of themselves
And passion.
Be comforted and glad

Be comforted.
Though smiles fade
Aches weary
Weeping weeps itself to sleep.
Beloved melodies incessantly replayed
Melt out of meaning
New words too loud and overused
Cease making sense
But silence, too
That tires of itself
The writing on the wall must speak.
Be comforted
All things all things
And passion


Only this knowledge remains:
That all tires of itself
All recreates
Nothing sustains
But knowing this is so.

Now go. Life waits.
Be glad be comforted

Sunday, 14 July 2019

One’s a pant in the country

I was struggling to find inspiration for today’s blog, so went online to ask people for astonishing, moving or fascinating facts about, well, anything.

Here’s what I learned:

Octopuses have testicles in their heads
Clare’s cat is a stinky, trumpy, naughty and mischievous devil all wrapped up in a beautiful coat of furriness
A tree allows a giraffe ten minutes to feed before it starts to release tannin into its leaves, which makes the leaves taste so bitter that the giraffe moves on
Today was a very big day for British sport
Daniel’s 88 year-old Dad asked him to take him to the doctor for viagra after he started dating a woman he met at his wife’s funeral
There was a Dragon boat race in York today
Sylvia knows a lot of very bad jokes
The first heavy metal knitting championship has just taken place in Finland? (It’s heavy metal - where else?!)
It is very difficult to find purple socks
Traditional chef hats have exactly 100 pleats
The lump in my mouth is not cancer. (I learned this fact in person yesterday, but I haven’t really had a chance to process the fact...)

Saturday, 13 July 2019

But how is Nathan?

The situation with the aggressive online trolls grew through the night, as the American knitters got involved and started to leap onto what they perceived as a ripe carcass. The thing that suddenly struck me about online bullying is that it’s actually not just about the things people say but the sheer weight of comments you receive when one of these situations erupts. If you respond to just one comment, another fifty people reply to that, and so it goes on, snowballing out of control with everyone assuming you’re reading everything. Within a single thread, rumours start to develop, which become fact the moment someone writes them down. I, personally, was accused of keeping a list of people who could expect my vengeance in a particularly bizarre twist to the story. It really did feel like I’d entered Looking-Glass Land. I felt like Alice talking to the White Queen, with every scrap of logic being twisted, just not in a particularly witty manner: “Jam tomorrow, jam yesterday, but never jam today.”

Someone actually suggested that Nathan should be “cancelled”. Quite a specific comment. For a long time, I debated whether or not this was a death threat and decided it probably wasn’t. I like to see the best in people, even if they are bat-shit crazy.

Nathan disabled comments when the sheer weight of them became too much, but the following morning, his other Instagram posts, and then his Twitter feed had been hijacked by the haters. The taunts continued. He was a white supremacist, a Nazi apologist...

He started obsessively reading the posts but became increasingly worked up, then more and more erratic and then suddenly he snapped, screaming like a terrified animal, smashing boxes and thumping himself. I was forced to wrestle him to the ground and hold onto him for dear life as the waves of pain surged through his body. He made a run for the car keys. He said he wanted to drive at 100 miles per hour until he crashed.

I called our doctor and they could hear him screaming in the background and said I was to immediately take him to A and E, where he was instantly assessed and put on suicide watch pending a decision about whether or not he needed to be, well, I suppose the word is sectioned.

We were there about six hours in total. Nathan went numb, then cried a lot, then laughed a lot, then cried and then went numb again. I got angry and started replying to the cowards on Instagram. I opened a new post on Nathan’s account, explaining that he was now in hospital, that their anger had been registered and that I would appreciate only messages of love for the time being.

And many, many wonderful messages of support and love came through, which, I firmly believe, kept Nathan from entirely tipping over the edge in those dark, dark hours. I am so grateful to the people who messaged me and him. Old friends. New friends. People whose lives he’d touched in his knitting career. The overwhelming message which came through was how many people Nathan had geed up, enthused, made smile. To begin with Nathan was terrified to hear what was being said in case it was barbed or sarcastic. He was scared and I felt utterly helpless to protect him from the mob. Put yourself for a moment in that position. Your husband is potentially going to be sectioned and you can’t stop the people who are putting him in that position from making things worse.

And sure enough, in amongst the outpourings of love and respect, the aggressive trolls popped up, largely taking me on as their new public enemy, but the most despicable were actually trying to suggest that Nathan’s being hospitalised was a publicity stunt and that the “snowflake” privileged white men in us were attempting to turn ourselves into victims to hide our “hatred.” Only the sickest of people would not have backed off in these circumstances.

One woman was talking about the need to collect evidence, another suggest that Nathan disabling comments on his original post had destroyed a lot of the hard “educational” work that the BIPOC community had carried out (like he was burning manuscripts or something), then someone else was demanding Nathan close down comments on the NEW post, because BIPOC people were being attacked by a whole other set of trolls.

See how much it’s like Alice Through the Looking-Glass?! Then they all started to suggest that unless we were prepared to provide them with screen grabs proving that Nathan had been called a white supremacist, it had to be assumed that he was lying.

There are now 3000 messages on the post. I have taken myself entirely off Instagram.

Being brutally and candidly honest I would say that, barring a few notable and vociferous individuals, the absolute majority of trolls “educating” me in BIPOC etiquette were white. And with allies like that, who needs enemies?

I had a spat with one woman who argued that, in some cases (implying Nathan’s) it was okay to accuse someone of Nazi apologising. I responded that 6 million Jewish people hadn’t died at the hands of actual Nazis just so that she could blithely use the term on social media to make her point. Oh she didn’t like that. Another woman said that Nathan had been very good at instructing people about homosexuality and AIDS but it was now his turn to listen. I told her that it wasn’t called AIDS any more, proving that we’re all on a journey to discovery. I could see her lips turning to lemon as she begrudgingly thanked me for educating her.

I screen-grabbed just one vitriolic remark, which came from rfw330. I may frame it one day alongside my shockingly awful Sibelius report from university.

“Stop weaponising every single detail about yourselves. No one who spoke up on Monday directly caused his admission to the hospital. For you to say otherwise is harmful, violent and flat out abhorrent. I hope after a night’s sleep you can realise that you are as complicit in this shitshow as your husband.”

So, in summing up, these people are unstoppable online, and seem to have endless tragic hours to spend whipping each other up into a frenzy. The good people ignore them, but they shout so loudly that they begin to look like they’re the official voice of BIPOC folk - and this is deeply dangerous because it plays into the hands of the far right.

A group of knitters are now setting up a new version of the yarn website, Ravelry which they have very nicely asked Nathan to join. These are the people who have been alienated by Ravelry’s decision to ban any talk of Trump because Trump supports right wing hate speech. But, because Ravelry refuses to ban hate speech from the left, it merely becomes a playground for those who shout loudly in that particular area. And the new site becomes a playground for the right, and no one dares to criticise anything. Polarisation of society complete.

And that’s what frightens me. And in these 100 year cycles that we’re in right now, we have to brace ourselves for anything.

But most importantly how is Nathan three days on? He’s okay. I think. Buoyed up by every message of support. Wiped out. Fragile. Frazzled. He was not sectioned but he has been referred for further investigation. Please continue to send love and warm thoughts.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Feeding the trolls

I am finding the world increasingly hard to understand right now and feel, more over, that there are ever-growing factions in the world who are expecting us all to polarise. We’re either “woke” or we’re white supremecists. If we agree with something Trump says, we’re evil. If we’re critical of a trans person, we’re transphobic. We can’t be a Labour supporter without being antisemitic. I feel myself polarising all the time. I did it with Brexit voters before I began to look into the manifold reasons beyond hatred of foreigners that people voted that way. And the business of Muslim people in Birmingham violently demonstrating against LGBT issues being taught in schools has taught me that we do need to have uncomfortable conversations about immigration and British values. It’s far too easy to leap on someone who makes this statement and criticise them for being a racist. Everything is nuanced. There’s no black and white. There’s no right or wrong. “The truth” if we bother to look, to quote Kate Bush, “lies somewhere in the middle.” And yet, for most of us would far rather it wasn’t.

The knitting community, on the outside, would appear to be a rather innocuous group. They display great acts of kindness by spending long hours knitting things for those they love. They go into yarn shops and rub delicate, soft yarns up against their cheeks and make purring noises. They cook lovely cakes and are a little eccentric but are essentially lovely, harmless people.

In the majority of cases, these statements are true. I’ve met some lovely knitters through Nathan. But yesterday I witnessed the seething, hideous under-belly of the community, and I don’t like it.

Over the last couple of years, an ever-growing group of people have been holding the community to ransom. They have negatively adopted a hash tag, “diversknitty,” which Nathan himself invented. Instead of promoting understanding and kindly pointing out when people have maybe spoken inappropriately, they routinely ride in, en masse, largely on social media, slamming people down for their apparent racist and misogynistic views. You take one on, the pack moves in and you’re torn apart. They boycott yarn festivals. Their profound vitriol has put designers out of business and they’re gleeful when they find out what they’ve done. Most, from what I can gather, are white women getting angry on other people’s behalves. People do not dare to take them on, so their views go unchecked. I suspect their very vocal and vicious posts are largely responsible for knitting website Ravelry’s wildly controversial decision to ban anyone expressing their support of Donald Trump, because “supporting Trump is supporting hate speech.” And yet, ironically, the hatred which glistens from this groups’ keyboards is worse than anything I’ve experienced from the far right.

Yesterday, Nathan made an appeal on social media for people to use the hashtag he created with more love and compassion. He has seen friends utterly destroyed by the haters and wanted to point out that the hashtag was supposed to be a tool for the promotion of ALL diversity rather than just those with a BIPOC axe to grind. Skin colour is, of course, a hugely important part of the diversity discourse, but Nathan has campaigned all his life for LGBT rights and has always used his social media platform to explore what makes people beautiful and unique. The direction his hashtag has gone in therefore feels very disappointing.

His Instagram post opened the doors to hell and the harpies rushed out like a fleet of dementors. I have never seen such ghastly online behaviour. Apparently, a white man asking for ALL knitters to behave with respect when discussing all aspects of diversity is specifically a white man addressing black women. And telling black women not to be angry is trying to silence them and that is a repulsive display of white man privilege.

Now, I have a degree of sympathy for an argument which says “we’ve been shat on all of these years, and we’re gonna shout as loud as we want.” I felt like that over gay marriage. I would even have a degree of sympathy for someone who felt Nathan was being a bit pompous - or even naive - for asking everyone to think twice before pulling the trigger, but I genuinely feel that rule number one in the quest for true equality is knowing who your friends are, and only going hammer and tong at your actual enemies. 

Instead, was he endures was a feeding frenzy at the zoo. Nathan was told that, with the hashtag diversknitty, he’d merely renamed a concept which had been around for a long time, and therefore was no no better than a colonialist renaming a country he’d invaded. He was accused of trying to silence black voices. He was accused of misogyny - well, from what I can gather, simply for being a man. He was accused of Nazi sympathising and White Supremacy. Message after message came in. 700 messages. Those who expressed support for him were instantly shot down in flames to the extent that they started messaging him privately out of the fear of what would happen to them if they did it publicly.

This is not a culture I recognise. It mustn’t be possible to whip people, to bully people, until they comply with your thoughts. Those who object are rendered utterly powerless.

I don’t normally get involved, but on this occasion felt compelled to support Nathan, and responded to three particularly obnoxious comments. I explained to the writers that, as gay men who’d lived through the 1980s, we understood prejudice and suggested they took their anger elsewhere. They say you shouldn’t feed the trolls, and boy I learned this lesson the hard way. It instantly kicked off. I was accused of being Nathan’s mouth piece. I was accused of misogyny and racism. “Not a good look”, one white girl told me, “to criticise a black woman for what she says about race. In 700 negative comments why did you only chose a black woman to have a go at?” I explained politely that I’d simply chosen the three most vitriolic comments and responded without looking at the photos of those who’d sent them. If she’d bothered to check, as I then did, she’d have seen that I’d taken issue with three people, two of whom happened to be white, but there’s no arguing with a troll. To the point I’d made about being a gay man in the 1980s I was told “yes, a gay MAN with white male privilege.” And then came the torrents of veiled homophobia. Nasty. Nasty. Nasty.

I soon backed off. The whole thing was making me oscillate between feeling hopelessly upset and utterly enraged at the injustice of it all.

I went for a walk and saw two homeless men walking down Ballards Lane. One was missing an arm. Both were white. I wondered what level of white male privilege had brought them to their knees.

Monday, 8 July 2019

NMPAT 50th anniversary

Saturday was joyous. I’m not sure I’m able to even begin to describe the magic of the day. It all started with breakfast in the Northampton Premier Inn with my parents and Sam Becker. A memorable day, in my experience, very often starts with a full veggie breakfast in a Premier Inn!

After breakfast, my father and I went for a very lovely walk around Northampton town centre, both of us becoming increasingly concerned about what has happened to the place. It really does seem to have gone into decline. For me, as a young person, it was one of the most glamorous and bustling places imaginable. It’s where the theatre was. It’s where the bowling alley was. There was a massive market. Tonnes of exciting shops. A night club which must have been amazing because it was called Cinderella Rockafella... And, of course the music school.

The area around the theatre, which is being marketed as the Cultural Quarter, is pleasant enough, but the moment you enter the shopping streets, it all starts to look a bit grubby, with shops boarded over, the big department stores running for the hills and very few people milling about. It was a Saturday morning. I’m pretty sure the place ought to have been rammed with shoppers.

Northamptonshire County Council have, of course, officially gone bust. They’re apparently leaving pot holes in the street and making the sorts of neglectful decisions which generate even more decline. And, of course, since the brutal austerity cuts, all of those enthusiastic and energetic council workers have had every last bit of giving a shit kicked out of them.

I went to the music school in the late morning to see the alumni orchestra rehearsing and was utterly blown away by the experience. Fiona had already texted to say she’d got about ten bars into playing Mars from the Planet Suite and burst into tears, generated by a sense of nostalgia, and huge gratitude to the music school for the career in music which it gave to her.

I sat and watched from the back of the second violins with the lovely Anna Murby, former BBC Radio Northampton presenter, who was also a student at NMPAT. Her twin, Vanessa, was playing viola in the orchestra. She’s interviewed me many times on the radio, but, of course, had no idea what I actually looked like. She was presenting the evening concert, and I was brilliantly amused when she tapped one of her mates on the back in the second violins and politely told them that the bowing looked a bit messy in one of the sections. There are few presenters who would turn up to rehearsals and fewer still who would recognise scruffy bowing, but that’s the power of the music school.

It was particularly thrilling to hang out with Helen Turton, whom I’ve really not seen as much as I should have over the years. We were incredibly close friends back in the day, and she reminded me quite how much time we’d spent together in those formative years. We’re exactly the same age and were always placed in the same orchestras and chamber groups, more often than not, sharing a desk.

I rushed away from lunch to do an interview with documentary makers who were creating a film about the reunion. I talked fairly passionately about arts cuts and the importance of rounded curriculums in schools.

In the early afternoon, it became my time to do some work, as founder members of the Northamptonshire Youth Choir had been invited to join its present members to sing two songs - frighteningly from memory. The choir started in 1990 with a residential course just outside Rushden. Brother Edward and I walked there from Higham Ferrers with Heather Norwood, who’s sadly no longer with us, and Tammy Palmer, who’s now a Lib Dem politician!

I think there were about twenty former choir members and we were guest conducted by our old vocal guru, David Bray. Brother Edward, Debbie Holmes and Becky Cox were amongst the performers. The latter are very dear friends with whom I’ve managed to stay in touch. They were both in the Watford Gap Musical, and Becky appeared in my first 100 Faces film, after moving to Cumbria. She now has a daughter who’s at university. How on earth can that be?

The rehearsal was a lot of fun. Hysterically, we all immediately reverted to our seventeen year-old selves. Debbie and Becky would often be sent out of rehearsals for uncontrollably giggling, and I always made myself deeply unpopular by making sardonic and surreal comments from the back row! The same happened again. Brother Edward, as always, was most ashamed! It was a little terrifying to sing from memory. It’s not something I’m used to these days. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever really done it, although David Bray tells me the choir always sang without music.

After the rehearsal there was a quick sound check on the Derngate stage before tea in an Italian restaurant with fellow choir members.

The concert was an early one. Peter Smalley, who runs NMPAT, was determined to start at 6pm so that we could all hang around at the Derngate afterwards sharing memories and drinking far too much orange juice.

The choir performed in the first half, so I didn’t see much of the concert band and the brass band who performed either side of us.

We had tickets in the fourth row of the stalls for the second half, which started with a set performed by the alumni Big Band. The Northamptonshire Big Band was always the place where the cool kids hung out. I remember going to see them in a concert at the Bede Hall in Higham in the early 90s and being blown away by their conductor, John Greaves, starting a number off and then standing at the side, nonchalantly clicking his fingers. The alumni version, of course, was full of industry pros, and they absolutely nailed it with some virtuoso ensemble playing and a series of electrifying solos. The urban myth of the evening- which might well be true- was that one of the band had turned down a gig playing with a top rock band in order to play at Derngate. Rachel Coles, their present conductor, led the band with panache, and a series of understated hand, arm and hip wiggles which periodically threatened to become dancing but always remained painfully cool. It was a side to her which I’d never seen before... And I liked it!

It felt very much as though the band were laying down the gauntlet to the alumni orchestra, who responded with brutal force.

They performed Mars, Jupiter and the 1812 Overture (complete with pyrotechnic and brilliantly-timed canons) with a fire I’ve seldom seen in an orchestra. The fact that the they’d only had a morning to rehearse probably added to the unrestrained, electrifying quality of the performance. It was almost as though the players had turned to each other beforehand and simply said, “let’s do this” before throwing caution to the wind. Sometimes the only difference between a terrible scratch performance and something profound and exciting is the players deciding to be brilliant.

I wept through the “Thaxted” section of Jupiter. It was like a double home-coming for a lad whose parents moved from Northamptonshire to Thaxted. I felt like a kid again, remembering watching the Youth Orchestra in a performance at the Derngate when I was still in the Training Orchestra, and feeling so inspired.

On Saturday night, inspiration turned to absolute pride as I watched a field of pro, semi-pro and top-quality amateur musicians who’d all passed through the same system. Each and everyone one of us had their own story about the importance of the music school and the crucial role it had played in our development, not just as musicians, but as human beings. The story we were all telling wasn’t only about those of us who’d become professional musicians, or music teachers, it was about the people who’d found their tribe whilst at the music school, the people who’d suddenly realised they weren’t weird or freaky, the people whose confidence had grown every time they walked into that hallowed building on the Kettering Road. And it was that confidence which saw them through their first job interview in whichever field they entered. And personally, I was there to thank the music school for showing me the horizon and unlocking a door which led to the rest of the world...

And to those bastards who view music as a “soft subject”, who have taken music out of the curriculum in their schools. To the councils who blithely cut their youth music services. To the governments who slash arts funding and then spend what we saved in austerity cuts on Brexit and lowering taxes, I ask one question: How would you RATHER the young people of this country spend their Saturday nights? Playing orchestral concerts, singing in choirs and acting in shows or getting pissed down the local pub? Let me tell you something: for a lad from East Northamptonshire, where the nearest cinema was five miles away and where joyriding, glue-sniffing and cow-tipping were the most popular past-times, it was a straight up choice between those two options. Thank God for NMPAT.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Picnic by a grave

I’m presently sitting in the Northampton Music School car park. I’ve found myself a wonderful spot in the sugary early evening sunshine. I’m particularly excited to be here because tomorrow marks the fiftieth anniversary reunion concert of the Northamptonshire Music School - or NMPAT as it’s now called. Various ensembles have been formed which feature former students. There’s even a full symphony orchestra. I’m singing in the choir, but gate-crashing the string sectional rehearsal. I can hear the sounds of Jupiter from The Planets echoing around, melded with the driving rhythms of a concert band playing the Star Trek theme. 

It’s rather nice to hear the big melody from Jupiter, not only because it’s a deeply stirring piece of music which goes directly into the soul of every English man, but also because it was repurposed as a hymn (I Vow to Thee My Country), which happens to be called “Thaxted”, on account of Holst living in Thaxted when he wrote the piece. 

I’ve been in Warwickshire all day with my family. It’s my Grandmother’s birthday today. She would have been 105, I think. We had a picnic in the water meadow behind her old house, next to the oak tree we planted in her memory, which itself is right next to the picture-perfect church yard where she’s buried. I put a stone on her grave every time I visit, but they keep getting moved away. Perhaps they don’t like Jewish customs in English churchyards, or perhaps people don’t know leaving stones is a thing... 

I got very emotional as I drove along the country lanes towards Stoneleigh, which is the village where my grandparents lived. I was listening to a CD “mix-tape” I made once to ape an old tape my Dad recorded whilst listening to the Terry Wogan show in 1978. It was very much the soundtrack to my childhood. As I entered the village, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers started playing. The deep theatrical melancholy of the melody almost destroyed me and I met my parents hastily brushing the tears from my eyes. Did anyone else think that their Dad was Terry Wogan, or was that just me? 

The weather has been remarkable all day. The sun has been glaring down. The sky has been bright blue. There’s been a gentle breeze. It was cool in the shade. It really was one of those perfect English summer days: the ones they always have in Merchant Ivory films. There were an abnormally large number of butterflies fluttering about. The fields over the hill behind the village had just been harvested and the butterflies seemed to be particularly keen to explore the hay up there. 

The churchyard would have made the most wonderful setting for the film version of A Month In The Country. It’s in such a magical place - by a crystal clear river, where the lime green reeds sway like fronds of seaweed in an incoming tide, in the middle of a wild-flower-covered water meadow which wraps its way around the medieval village.

I’m not sure we were ever aware of quite how remarkable and uniquely beautiful my Grandparents’ village is. I think perhaps I felt that all grandparents lived in idyllic rural settings like that. Well, except my other grandparents, who lived in Sunny Nuneaton, which was somewhat less salubrious!
Northampton, by comparison, was looking a bit rough around the edges. It’s now full of homeless people. Seemingly every church wall, or town centre bench houses a cluster of down-and-outs, all looking like life is not treating them well. There are huge divisions in our society and a trip into one of the troubled Midlands towns will prove this fact conclusively.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Woodland burial

We had such an awful night last night. We’re now in the very last stages of the move. In fact, by 2pm today, we ought to have everything closed up at Archway Road ready for whatever our landlords there have decided to do with our old home. When they evicted us, they told us they weren’t able to tell us why they wanted us to leave so suddenly and after fifteen years. Someone told us that his daughter was getting married, so maybe he wants to bequeath the flat to her. Who knows? Who cares?

Anyway, part of yesterday’s task was to close up the loft, and that meant bringing down the last vestiges of “us” from up there, including the toys of Nathan’s which had been so badly destroyed by moths.

My heart broke for Nathan as he said goodbye to a stack of his childhood friends. It’s been a week of ghosts, and we decided to seal quite a few up there in the loft including the first ever computer I bought and our old rat cage. The loft has tended to be the place where we put the things which went wrong or didn’t quite work out the way we wanted them to. I once had lots and lots of copies of Sing a Song of Yorkshire printed out so that I could sell them, but, for whatever reason it wasn’t to be, so they went up in the loft, with a little bit more of my joi de vivre!

We didn’t want to seal Nathan’s toys in the loft, so decided to take them to Queens Wood, just at the spot where three of our pet rats are buried. It was one of the most upsetting experiences of my life. It sounds so pathetic really, but I suppose we both got so sad because it was a ritual which signified the end of an era. Leaving your old toys in the middle of a wood is challenging. It’s like saying goodbye to your childhood. Reconciling the fact that you’ll never be that protected and optimistic about the world again. Recognising you’re now closer to death than you are to birth. All of those things swirl around in your head.

And so, at about 10pm, we sat Belinda, Janet, Tigger, Tommy Beaver Toodlums, The Koalas and Blu under a tree, wrapped them all very carefully in a little crocheted blanket and walked away to our future.