I'll be spending much of today at the funeral of my oldest friend.
I mean oldest because Jack Ray was 95 when he died, and I don't know anyone older than that right now.
But oldest too because I have known Jack for over 40 years, and there aren't many people, family apart, I've engaged with for that long.
Jack was a very powerful influence in my life. We met because he built an amazing model railway, and he needed people to run it. I went along out of curiosity and he gave me a hobby for life: I still read railway history and build model railways.
My interest in business started because I read those railway histories. They opened a curiosity about what business does, how and why that continues to this day. I wouldn't do what I do but for Jack.
But he was so much more important than that. When I was 14 he told me to write. In fact he told me writers change the world.
Jack wrote. He changed many people's lives as a result. He coached, inspired and encouraged me. No one had believed in me like that before he did. No one had bothered about what I thought and wrote as he did. And no one corrected, challenged and demanded better like Jack did - almost without his realising it.
And he was also quite simply a friend - someone to call on, whose advice was worth heeding, and who always had time for a story, a laugh and a shared appreciation of life.
I'll miss Jack.
Farewell my friend.