And, speaking of Nigel...

Nigel Lofthouse was the proud owner of a piece of leather-working equipment called a skiving machine and in my time as his tenant at Station Yard in Halesworth, I was privileged to learn the fine art of skiving from a much-practised expert.

While we skived together, we would turn our towering, penetrating intellects to the contemplation of the great mysteries of our times, such as:

What’s the opposite of wind? Why can’t they make the whole car out of that airbag stuff? What’s the weight of a flame? Do compasses work in space? Can you buy a trouser?

To help us in our wonderings, we looked for enlightenment in the works of probably the world’s greatest Danish philosophical commentator, Carlsberg, and we would immerse ourselves in the output of the much admired French existentialist, Bordeaux, famously the proponent of the “I drink, therefore I am” school of thought to which Nigel so enthusiastically subscribed.

Our dedicated – indeed, devoted – work in these fields of endeavour was ably assisted, of course, by our shapely, white-clad laboratory technician, Virginia.

From these adventures came great discoveries, as yet unpublished: The Lofthouse Principle, for instance, which is a branch of Celestial Mechanics and describes how everything put together, occasionally by Nigel himself, sooner or later falls apart… or our Damp Squib Theory, which we felt was not only more plausible, but actually more likely than the Big Bang Theory… and there was our work on the search for the Oh My God Particle, which Nigel claimed he’d embarked on back in Tyne Tees days, when he’d had a go on a fairground Hadron Collider and thought it wasn’t up to much.

We came to the conclusion that if Higgs Boson was nowhere to be found, we might alternatively look for the boson’s mate, or the cox’n, or, at the very least, the cabin boy.

At every turn, Nigel and I found the exalted world of science lacked our steely, intellectual vigour, but at the same time, we appreciated some of the poetry of cosmography: Intermediate Disturbance Theory – we were very good at that; Orbital Resonance (the distressing noise made by a perfectly innocent piece of wood while Nigel ruthlessly sanded it down); and Late Heavy Bombardment, after which Nigel would retreat, in a not entirely orderly way, to bed.

What I haven’t yet worked out is what on earth to do, now that a bloody great Nigel-shaped hole has appeared in the universe.

Nigel was/is a singularity. He was/is/and always will be a kindred spirit for me, my glass more than half full, my partner in crime – mainly perpetrated repeatedly and with relish, on the English language.

Nigel: it has been a pleasure, a joy and a privilege to be your friend and accomplice. I will carry on the great work of skiving which you taught me – although I may never be quite as good at it as you.

Thank you, for being Nigel.

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