Clive James was dying when I met him. Everybody knew it, because the great writer and broadcaster had said so in print. He had written a poem about he would never see the leaves on the Japanese maple in his garden turn green again, because leukaemia was about to claim him … but then the tree died first.
‘We’ve had it replaced,’ said James sheepishly, when I went to see him at home in Cambridge, two years later. ‘I am highly embarrassed to still be here,’ he said at the start of a long afternoon and early evening in which he talked with surprising candour but unsurprising fluency about his life and loves. There were tears, from both of us.
Never meet your heroes they say, but they’re wrong. He had been a writing of hero of mine since I was a teenager, when his brilliant memoir made me realise it was possible to be a writer even if you came from a place everybody else thought was nowhere. I’m glad I met him. It was a privilege. This is the first draft of what I wrote, an account of the encounter that is more raw and far less polished than what appeared in the Mail on Sunday, but closer to how it was.Continue reading ““I am not afraid of dying.” An emotional last conversation with the great Sir Clive James”