Just I was heading out the door to go to the beach this morning, the postman delivered a letter from France. It is one I had been expecting sooner or later, telling me that my great friend Georges had died. I knew, I think, that when he returned to Paris last autumn, that I would not see him again. He had been suffering from a degenerative nerve disease which had already begun to affect his ability to walk, and was spreading. Although he was in his seventies, he was frustrated that because of his illness - not his age - he was unable to help me work on the roof. We used to joke about various Heath-Robinson contraptions we could make to hoist him up there. Of course, we both knew the reality of the situation - which we kept to ourselves. He was extremely intelligent - he had been a chemical engineer - and had a wonderful, wicked sense of humour. When I returned to France briefly last autumn, I had found a letter waiting for me, in which he, and another friend, had described me as their 'brother of the heart'. It is a literal translation, but you get the idea.

I don't want to sound sad about this. I will miss him, but I remember him with affection and happiness. All the same, I was glad to have the beach to myself this morning. As I climbed up the shingle banks to head back, I noticed how much the rough weather has altered the shape of the beach. The beach may change, but it will always be the beach.

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