23 Mar 2009

Jade Goody and Nicko Henderson

This weekend in our village in the country we buried Nicko Henderson – Sir Nicholas Henderson, formerly HM ambassador to Warsaw, Bonn, Paris and Washington.

The little Saxon church – one of only 20 buildings in the hamlet in which we each had homes – seats perhaps 45 people. We got more than a hundred in.

Sir Nicholas and Lady Henderson, May 1979

We celebrated his life, gazed upon the coffin, wedged beneath the tiny chancel arch, and sang Praise My Soul the King of Heaven.

Anthony Eden’s widow was there, flanked by the Marquis of Salisbury’s widow and Lord Carrington. Henderson grandchildren played violin duets. The little nave heaved with jasmine and daffodils, hellebores around the pulpit.

In the grassy graveyard beneath the beech trees and the ewe, the sexton had dug a hole to unite him with the wife he lost five years ago. In the noon sun, with ancient gravestones leaning and clumps of daffodils and primroses full blown, we buried him. He was 89 and had lived a full life.

Yesterday morning the radio told me Jade Goody had died. She was 27, the victim of a cruel and savage illness, the child of our strange encounter with the technological revolution in which we are living.

Jade Goody

Where Nicko Henderson had sat with Stalin at Potsdam in 1945, Jade Goody had, until so few years before her untimely death, lived a life blessed with very little.

Now they are both no more – neither of them present, each a testament to who we are and how we got here. And where do we go from here?



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