So, that was January 2016. It will not be missed, unlike the people whose passing it marked. A strange, dark time, during which we seemed to reel from one unbelievable headline to another. There is nothing unbelievable about death; it is inevitable for each of us - but still we reeled. So many cultural icons felled within so few days. I avoided writing; there were words enough in print and in cyberspace and others, I kept thinking, had already found the right words.
My eldest nephew, now in his mid-fifties, had been a fan of David Bowie from the age of 14; he posted his thoughts on Facebook and his words were as eloquent and as moving as those of any of the professional commentators paid to write a eulogy for the broadsheets and elsewhere. But having lost his younger brother, a sister, and his mother within thirteen months of each other in recent years, my nephew is already acquainted with grief. He has the words. Then there were Bowie's own words, in Archive on 4, David Bowie: Verbatim, with the man himself, laughing, joking, and reminiscing about the Marquee, the Ricky Tick in Hounslow, the Craw Daddy in Richmond, Eel Pie Island, all the places that many of us of a certain age had flocked to in the 1960s . . . for the music. He had been there too.
On the day that Alan Rickman's death was announced, I called a close friend who had once known him well and who had introduced me to him 40 years ago. (I wrote about that meeting here.) And we talked about the strange, difficult emotional hinterland we must occupy when someone to whom we have once been very close dies. (In that coincidental way, Woman's Hour touched on that very subject later in the week.)
And so the announcements continued until yesterday, the last day of the month when we heard, first about Sir Terry Wogan, then Frank Finlay . . . and suddenly it was 1966 again. I was 18, six months pregnant, and sitting in my Dear Old School Friend's father's mini-van; she driving round and round Parliament Square, trying to find the right traffic lane for Westminster Bridge. The Dear Old School Friend had just passed her driving test and we were on our way to the Old Vic, to see what was to become one of the definitive 20th century stagings of Othello: Laurence Olivier in the title role, Maggie Smith as Desdemona - and Frank Finlay as Iago. We arrived with minutes to spare, she hauled me up seemingly endless flights of stone steps to the gods, and we watched the entire performance sitting on hard wooden benches. (I did wonder whether my memory was playing tricks. had there really been wooden benches at the Old Vic in the 1960s? I checked; there had been, indeed, wooden benches in the 1960s.) I also found this page on Frank Finlay's website and could not agree more with Sir Anthony Sher's words about the exceptional acting that we saw that day. How very lucky we were. I told the Dear Daughter yesterday that, at the time, I had hoped that the experience would have some sort of in utero impact on my unborn baby. It must have worked: she has always loved Shakespeare . . .
By mid-morning, yesterday, I found I could listen to no more words on BBC Radio 4. (It might have been listening to Bill Gates's off-putting voice on Desert Island Discs that did it.) I switched to Radio 3 and the day became brighter at once (it was Folk Connections weekend on Radio 3). I was adding pieces of music to my BBC Playlister, almost without stopping, until this song, which - in every sense - stopped me in my tracks: Only Remembered, words by John Tams. If you have seen War Horse, the song will be familiar and you can see John Tams performing it with the War Horse cast here. However, the version broadcast was this one, by Coope Boyes and Simpson, which I found on the No Glory website and which is where I discovered that Alan Rickman had been an early signatory to the No Glory letter. Alan Rickman and many others whose work - and words - I admire. Everything is connected. Everything and everyone. And we can remember. We do.