20th April 2020

Darling Paloma,

‘ Wait here,’ I said, ‘ or rather wait over there,’ pointing to the next sto op so I could make my way to our front door. The old gentleman in the tweed suit had returned (back today in a white suit, white shirt and college tie). And just when I thought I’d never see him again.

I dashed upstairs to find the bath plug. That bloody bath plug which I had been carrying around in my pocket until yesterday! I wanted to find the plug quickly before I lost him again. I searched my office but it was not on my desk or on my bookshelves. I picked up the blanket off my chair, look round, once, from left to right from right to left. where is it? Asked God to guide me, hot, cold, cold, warm…I looked deep in the cupboard, in the top drawer under my socks and thought why should I have put it there? Sat down, stood up, sat down, had a sip of coffee and finally under the desk I found it, fallen next to one of the legs! Phew! And when I picked up this silly object, for absolutely no reason I uncontrollably broke down weeping. I tend to be doing this at the moment. I’m sensitive about everything. I miss your brother. I miss our old lives. I see your mum’s tummy and want to hold it and not let go. I want to thank every brave soul on the front line. They are extraordinary people. No thought of their own lives just wanting to save others. I want, I’m wanting, I wanted to ask the old gentleman where had he been? And say something like you must have known I was worried about you. But of course I didn’t . Stupid really. We’d only met a couple of times and we hardly said a word to each other; I don’t even know his name.

He thanked me kindly for the plug. Said he was grateful. He even gave a smile.

He spoke a little bit about his wife and in doing so revealed a little more about himself. He said she always slept peacefully and was an early riser. ‘ She snores though.’

‘ And you don’t?” I said.

‘ No,’ he lied like every other man who talks about snoring.

His tone changed when he spoke of her. ‘ She is from a rather grand family. and when we first met she had a house not far from here. In fact it was in that square opposite. Beautiful but rather dark with heavy furniture and ancestral portraits eyeing each other from velvet papered walls. I used to go round there and have tea! That’s how old I am. I played the classic game of pretending not to care when we first met’. As he spoke about his wife he, all of sudden, looked very young. It was startling. ‘I didn’t want to show how totally and utterly in love I was with her. I played that game of not needing her company. And sometimes I ‘d pick up a magazine or something instead of talking until she threw a cushion at me. And then she’d suggest it was time for me to go and I’d drop my guard and ask if I could stay longer and by doing so revealed that her presence was VITAL to me…’

And with that, he stood up, brushed himself down and started to walk away.

‘ Thank you again for this,’ he said holding up the plug like it was a trophy.

‘ My pleasure,’ I said, ‘ and let me know if I can get you and your wife anything else.’

He nodded.

‘ I see you don’t have today’s crossword with you,’ I said.

He shook his head. ‘ No. Things in my life are changing.’

And then he was gone.

I think or rather hope he will be back soon. I want to learn more about him, maybe even his name.

When I went back upstairs I found my laptop and looked for photographs I had taken of the old gentleman the other week. I only took a few and they are all similar. But today I noticed one because of its ray of light. Only yesterday I imagined a ray of light on the globe turning off for each one death . . . and another coming on for each birth. The thought has stayed with me.

Te quiero mucho,

Papa

Published by Simon Astaire

Simon Astaire was the youngest agent ever employed at ICM starting the Music department and representing a variety of clients before turning to head a PR agency where his clients included brands such as Bulgari, Armani and celebrities and members of the Royal Family. He is regularly quoted in the press and has been described in The London Times as a PR Prince. He had a regular column in the Sunday Telegraph called Station to Station where he interviewed a diverse mixture of high-profile individuals on their imaginary last train journey. He has written six novels and two biographies including soccer star Sol Campbell when he was nominated for best new sports writer. His latest novel The Last Photograph, was made into a film of the same name. It had a US theatrical release in November 2019 and is now available on all platforms. His blog ' Letters to my daughter' began March 19th 2020.

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