Today we lost a friend.  Six weeks ago when I was dithering whether we should visit John McKay and his wife before they went to the US for their vacation or after he pressed me to seize the day. I’m so glad he did because Maine turned out to be a one way trip for him.

We first met John when he was the Anglican chaplain in Venice and we bonded over the Irish connection. Though he was an Ulsterman and a Protestant he was a red-hot Nationalist so he and Mr F had many a wine-fuelled political barney at our table, but he was, above all else, a dear and staunch Christian friend. He followed an unusual path to ordination: obnoxious ginger-haired office clerk, cook and housekeeper to a strictly kosher Jewish family, BEA cabin steward and finally, mature ordinand to the Church of England. I also happen to know that he was a brilliant jiver, but that’s another story.

When he retired from Venice and returned to Ireland he fulfilled a long-standing wish and rescued a black labrador from the dog pound. Walking Finn on the strand at Drogheda helped restore his health.

A month ago, when we were setting off for our weekend in the country, loading our bags into the messy, doggy trunk of his car, I said, ‘John, you need a valet service.’

‘I know,’ he said. ‘I haven’t cleaned it since Finn died. I can’t bring myself to wash away the smell of him.’

I’m not a Dog Person but I do hope Finn was waiting for him, stick in slobbery muzzle, when John crossed the Jordan this morning.

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