Monday the 4th of March marked Patrick’s 90th birthday, as I’m sure most of you readers out there know. With this ‘page out of my diary’, I’ll not go into great detail (as some memories are best kept in the heart rather than on the interwebs) but we did celebrate his life in Selsey. Together with the lovely locals (it wasn’t hugely advertised, but the centre was packed) and some of Patrick’s best friends. It was the first spring day of the year, a good day to have a birthday indeed, and the stars would shine fittingly bright this night.
I had a bit of a Love Actually moment when I ran across Gatwick, feeling a bit unsettled about being late and all. The friend who’d invited me had reassured me though and it instantly felt good to be a part of it, when my good friend Graham and I walked in during the interval. The first friend I saw, was someone I had met the very first time I came to England many moons ago and it made me smile to learn he remembered that night too. New friends were also made this evening, as I finally met the lovely Paul Abel, whose enthusiasm I admire very much.
We found a seat (or actually Phil did) while Iain Nicolson and Jon Culshaw (and so occasionally Brian Cox) were handing out raffle prizes. The invitation had said all proceeds would go to St. Wilfrid’s Hospice by the way. And while John Reeve from the Selsey Cricket Club was sharing memories next, I noticed the relaxed atmosphere and how I wasn’t sure if I felt sad or happy. Probably both. I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else but here in any case. Especially when Paul Abel, Jon Culshaw, Brian May and Tim Rice joined Iain Nicolson and John Mason on stage.
They shared memories which I think made many of us nod our heads in recognition. Paul mentioned how you always ended up drinking around Patrick. I think I had my first orange-juice-plus-something at Farthings indeed. Jon then described the feeling I had all evening: how lucky we all are to have known Patrick. And Brian told us how Patrick had inspired him to look up, which he and Chris passed on to me really. I do hope I’m passing it on to others indeed. After the show, we sent some stars and dark matter balloons to Patrick, which was a beautiful moment.
Then the best spontaneous idea in the history of good spontaneous ideas was born, when it was decided that this smaller group of friends would give each other lifts to Farthings to point Patrick’s 15” ‘scope to the clear skies that night. It was weird and wonderful to be there again. The house still felt like the home, except there was something important missing. I also couldn’t not yell ‘airlock, mind the airlock!’ when we got in. We all walked around, sometimes sharing memories quietly, when I saw the Galaxy Zoo cube we once gave to Patrick at one of his parties.
It was a special evening. That’s the word indeed. Even ordinary things like making tea for the boys, talking about trivial stuff and looking for that power switch, reminded me of how much I’m in love with life itself and how it almost can’t get any better if you are this lucky indeed. Paul devotedly gave us the grand tour of the heavens, which left everyone in awe. Some had said it felt as if Patrick was there in all of us. I’m pretty sure that he would’ve loved this in any case. Us coming round, looking up and sharing the moment. Wonders of this world go on.
We stayed in the same hotel as when we last visited Patrick (and had used binoculars in the gardens as well). The next morning we quickly stopped at the beach – like we had done that time too. Yeah you can call me foolishly sentimental (if you’re still reading these thoughts). Guilty of it. It was another ridiculously lovely day though. A bit silly to run to the water in that black dress (the H&M one which hadn’t taken a whole team to put together actually), but I just had to. In the car already back to the airport Tracy Chapman and The Killers played their tunes.
I’m not sure why I just had to mention that, but it’s my diary and I’m keeping it in. Now don’t tell anyone, but while Brian and Roger were honoured with a plaque at Imperial College that next day, I sat on my plane back teary-eyed. They were strange, happy tears, as I realised how all of last night’s reminiscences had a place in my heart; a bit like that box of pictures. I do hope Patrick knew deep down how important he was to so many people and how thankful I am for his generosity and his hospitality. Cheers!