Recently, I received a personal letter from someone I first met over 30 years ago. At the risk of sounding as though I'm blowing my own trumpet, a slightly edited version is reproduced here:
'Congratulations on being awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the UK Speechwriters' Guild. It seems to me I knew you as a boy when you came to the Political communication conference at the University of Essex and I met you for the first time. I would have thought then that it shouldn't have taken so long to receive such an award, given your training of your protege, Ann Brennan, to test the water at the SDP Party Conference in Buxton. Her standing ovation was in itself a Lifetime Achievement Award.
'And I know someone had to teach Paddy Ashdown how to speak in short sentences, beginning with a subject, adding a verb and closing in the object of the sentence. I wish more politicians, indeed more graduates, would read your books.
'I am sorry that I will not be there to cheer you on, particularly when you use your own techniques to ensure a rousing round of applause.
' Sir R----- W-------- KBE DL.'
The full story of how an appearance at the conference referred to by RW changed my life was told in 10 episodes in this blog a few years ago - HERE: http://maxatkinson.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/claptrap-10-academic-acclaim.html
What was not mentioned there was that, before I had finished presenting my paper at the conference, RW passed me a note saying: 'I must have a copy of your book to review in my column in The Times.'
Whether or not he did review it in that newspaper, I don't know. But our paths have crossed in interesting ways over the years since then - and I am grateful to him for quite a lot of things that he and I both remember....