WE used to have an art mistress who after a quick tour of our works locked herself in the supply cupboard for the rest of the lesson. There was only silence but we knew she was chain smoking by the smoke coming from under the door.

We visualised her, shoes off, leaning back against the shelves of paper. We visualised her like that because when she emerged, as if engaged in a massive stock-taking exercise, she carried her own cloud of Senior Service above her disturbed wig which had always tipped to one side. A Vidal Sassoon asymmetric cut it wasn’t.

I thought of her for the first time in years as Pierce bounced me over cobbles and flagstones as he wheeled me around Valence d’Agen on our afternoon outings.

I kept checking my reflection in shop windows to ensure my own wig was still firmly in place, although I knew by its snug fit it had to be. I was also secretly admiring it to be honest, knowing it would neither droop or drop.

We were on our way – again – to Le Café de Paris – a bar on the square where distancing was easy and all protocol observed by staff. It was the closest to normal I’d been in months and on the two occasions before the latest Covid lockdown, was on a mission.

I’d been dreaming of two things – a coke float with two blobs of Vanilla ice-cream and a spicy Margarita.

Forget the first. It seems there is a cut-off date for ice-cream sales in rural France and we’d missed it by a week.

And as for a spicy Margarita, I might as well have asked for a caviar encrusted iced bowl with a side order of lobster. I gave up describing the ingredients and settled for a large dry white.

Obsessed by having some form of cocktail, I hit on a Bloody Mary for the next visit and sent Pierce to ensure they made one. Even that took a lot of explaining but eventually a bottle of tomato juice, pepper and tobacco sauce arrived to drown the vodka. Let’s say the anticipation was more exciting than the drink but it was a cocktail…of sorts. Simple pleasures.

It led to a discussion on the appalling ‘bucket list’ of all things. Did I have one, he asked. Oh God, cannot one get away from the finality of it all for just one cocktail?

Once again, I realised how fortunate I’ve been. ‘No,’ I told Pierce. ‘I’ve seen or done more or less everything I’ve wanted to in life, usually with a newspaper paying for it.

‘If there was a country I wanted to see I’d find a good story there. Or if I’d paid for a holiday, I’d still find a good story, flog it and offset most of the original cost against my tax.

‘If I wanted to meet a particular author or actor – I’d request an interview. Simple.’

I’ve been to many exotic destinations, met many crushes and heroes (almost always a disappointment) and wined and dined in some of the world’s finest restaurants on expenses.

And all of this doing a job I loved every single day of my life. Oh, I’m not blasé about this, believe me, I’ve always been aware and thankful of my good fortune, relishing it always.

You can see what I’m doing here? Pierce has had to go home, the results of my scan postponed, though I should have it by the time you read this. He will be present by phone only instead of by my side and then three more days of chemo should begin.

So, in the once again blue hours, I’m trying to write of lighter things, good things when all was hopeful and possible. Trying not to inflict you once again with my fears and painful thoughts; trying to remember all the extraordinary things with which I’ve been blessed and trying to block out the nightly cries of a woman down the corridor who’s in great pain.

How dare I still want more when many, most, haven’t had a tenth of my experiences?

Oh, but I do – don’t we all? This precious life is all we know but it takes the jolt of tragedy or personal despair to make us truly know how wonderful it is even in the midst of world catastrophe.

We won’t, we cannot give up on it even though it seems it’s ready to give up on us after all we’ve inflicted on it in our greed and lack of caring.

So many of the glorious places I’ve visited are now under threat of destruction or have already been placed in jeopardy.

And the thread of Covid runs through all, bringing us daily terrors and uncertainties, threatening every single one of us.

But still we hold on, cling on, hoping against hope that the tide will turn and life as we knew it – the one that seems so far away now – will return to us once more.

For some of us it won’t for one reason or another, but for many, please God, it will. Life itself is tenacious…like us. So, don’t wait to draw up a bucket list – live now.