When the email came I was floating around the house in a deep blue shalwar kameez with its dupatta, a shawl-like scarf, wrapped French-style around my neck. I had woken up that morning still at peace with my world and all in it, and for some reason – God knows why – thought about wearing it.

I had worn it just once but even with the mass clear-out last year I couldn’t part with. It was worn at Glyndebourne, the opera festival to which I’d been invited from a house party 22 years ago. I remember the date exactly for my son was 14 and wearing his first dinner suit.

Made for me, at vast cost, in a rather upmarket Indian shop in Glasgow, it is a simple fine, fine jersey, with muted embroidery around the neck and cuffs; tiny starbursts embroidered down the body with a fan of soft pleats falling from well below the waist in a front panel.

I wore it with its matching loose trousers fitted at the ankles.

It was bought in desperation, for I was overweight and going with a long-legged group of younger, horribly rich, beautiful friends.

There was no question of competing; simply of covering up. It would have looked magnificent on someone even three inches taller than me; even on someone two stone heavier who carried themselves with pride.

On me it looked what it was – a cover up.

Once home I lost weight with a vengeance and vowed never again to wear loose clothes. Of course the big shirts have crept back in but if I have had to dispense with my size 6s and 8s, then I still fit comfortably in a 10.

Anyway, last Saturday, on a whim, I put it on. Gratifyingly it was probably two sizes too big but the feel of quality material and the perfect swirl of its skirt took me far away from the joggers and sweats I normally throw on. Sod it – on it stayed.

And so I swished and swayed around the house and garden, needy dog trailing, smelling the long held perfume released in the heat.

I laughed out loud as the chasse vans passed, passenger heads turning in incomprehension.

And why can’t I wear what I want in my field in rural France? There are no rules; no social niceties to bind me anymore and I no longer give the proverbial flying…..

Then I checked my email and the stark words were from the son of friends. "Phone me when you get this."

My heart dropped. I knew instantly – but which one?

It was S, a massive heart attack at home the day before. He and M were surrounded by packing cases – their house further north sold, and ready to begin their move just over an hour from me.

Just two/three weeks earlier we’d sat at the table here as they stopped overnight on their way back from signing the final papers.

They had talked of all they had ordered to be done in the old stone village house and we raised glass after glass, imagining all to come after what had been a long, tortuous process.

I’d known S all my working life in Scotland – he was the quiet, patient photographer who did his best to make things work for you.

But it was only in France that they became good, good friends. They were almost always the first faces I’d see at my hospital bedside having driven four or more hours to check on me.

Nothing would ever be too much trouble – I only had to lift the phone and shout "Au secours".

Of course I never did but now, about to live so close, we could have more fun times together.

He was the kindest of men and she is the kindest of women, filled with strength, energy and optimism, belying their often-changing fortunes and age.

They complimented each other the way the best couples always do. He would run a hand over his head and sigh as she bubbled away with thoughts and ideas, then gently, sometimes not, halt her gallop.

And she would look to him then, laugh and half agree and a compromise would be reached. Their eyes never looked other than kindly on each other. Who could ask for more?

With a strong family enfolding her, she will, will, get through this – we all have to at some point, don’t we?

I doubt it will be in France. Life is easier here when there is someone to share it. But it is far bleaker for those suddenly alone when they didn’t expect to be – unlike those of us who’ve always walked thus.

At the end of the phone call, I looked down at my deeply hued outfit, expecting it to feel now silly and somewhat tawdry in the face of such profound news.

It didn’t because I remembered some of S’s favourite stories were about me shocking the staid people of Inverness when I whirled in, in some of my wildest outfits, when young.

Or so I justified to myself. It’s what we do, isn’t it, when death comes knocking?