As soon as I said it, I knew it sounded crazy. “I’ll write letters to cheer you up through your treatment.” Brian, sitting opposite me in the pub, back in the summer of 2010, looked bemused. He had just told me he’d been diagnosed with bowel cancer and I suspect he was hoping for a cure, not a correspondent. But when someone tells you something that devastating, I don’t think it’s unusual to feel awkward, helpless, and to say something you later wish you hadn’t.
Not only had I said I’d write (who writes letters these days, for goodness sake?),
I’d said they’d cheer him up. So they’d have to be funny, and what is funny about cancer? Brian later told me he went home that night thinking I was a bit weird. I couldn’t disagree.