Unforgettable Valana! The smallest package of energy, you would whizz through the offices of the NBI like a meteor, in a shower of sparks, sharp-tongued, quick-witted, fleet of foot, fizzing with laughter and jokes and passionate intensity. Perhaps it was always in your nature that you would go like this, felled by a stroke in the prime of life, like a fuse that has been overloaded.

Loyal to a fault, you told me when you were my PA that you would always be there for me, watching my back – you were my wing-man, flying into battle. And, to the end, I treasured your love and your devotion. Irreplaceable Valana!

It has been a sad, sad week. And a time, I have to say, of too much grieving – Gail Elliot, dead just over a month ago; my dear friend and colleague Marianne’s brother killed in a car crash, just over a week ago, as he was driving to work in the morning. We need no more reminders, surely, of how life and love and all we hold dear hangs by the slenderest of threads – and no stronger argument, I would imagine, for consciously choosing to live our lives well.