My friend Frank died this morning. He had been ill with cancer for several years so we were all expecting it. But it is so much sadder than I imagined it would be. I suppose the reason it’s so sad is that Frank was so special. Everyone thinks their friends are special but Frank really was. He was a walking historical encyclopaedia and also a world authority on opera and ballet. His day job was politics, which he wrote about brilliantly. But more than anything he was funny. When I heard yesterday that he was in a coma my daughter Olivia, aged seven, asked me what was wrong.
“I don’t want Frank to die,” I said.
“None of us want Frank to die,” she said. “He makes us laugh.”
“And he’s Swedish,” added Bea, aged six.
Frank was many things, but he was not Swedish. He was, however, a brilliant mimick and would speak to the girls in pretend Swedish which they loved. I always remember a story he would tell about being on a London bus and pretending to be Russian. The conductor was charmed, called him comrade and let him travel for free.
We first met him about four years ago when he and his wife bought a house down here. He loved the region and village life. He would often sit in the local bar drinking a pression with a local man who claims to have discovered the Internet. My husband and he followed their local rugby team, Bèziers, in several defeats and would go on mad day-trips to places like Vichy, a four-hour drive each way. He called him “dear boy” which I found old-fashioned and charming. He called me “Hurricane Hels”, which I will miss, as well as everything else about him.