Well we gathered in Newcastle to say goodbye, and I'm pleased I went. Saying goodbye to my mate Lenny, Leo, Lennie, LJ, Lucky LJ, Leonard, even Len.

I didn't know anyone really when I first arrived at the Crowne Plaza ("The Crowne Plaza - of course" I can hear you quipping), and as I sit here reflecting on last night I realise the only person I got to know better was you Lenny. So this is written directly to you, as right now I'm feeling very alone.

My friend, and friend to many, Leonard Johnson, has boarded his last flight it seems and I'm struggling to fully comprehend what that means.

Lenny (as most of us knew him) stood out from the crowd and was very much a solitary friend. His turns of phrases, his quips, his jokes, his stereotypes, his questions that he knew were troublesome, his carefree casual charm, and above all his sense of friendship.

History in school is often written off by young people as ‘boring’ and the love of history in later life leads to people to regret not ‘getting into it earlier’ – Peter Connolly was a solution to this. When he arrived in your school, in the local library or indeed in Spalding’s bookshop Bookmark he took it back in time.

His beard, bright eyes, tall demeanour and the passion in his voice gave him an amazing presence. Put into that mix the shields, the helmets, the swords and the chain mail and it was a childhood wonder.

In this play there is no doubt who is the lead role: Sidney Malin, star of the show, the name in big lights, as I raise my glass of toast to him – today he walks across the heath of life.  

But in putting together my notes I am aware that the roll call of supporting actors and actresses to Sidney’s work over the years, is long and prestigious: Margaret Little, Air Marshal the Lord Tim Garden, Ann Finer, Gill Wagner, Richard Waddington, Vera Miles, Sally Twite and Philip Vince to name but a few significant Camden Liberals whom Sidney joins in the pantheon of election contributions.

When I was at Spalding Grammar School, south Lincolnshire, it was a fairly regimented house structure – I was in Gamlyn and there were three other houses (Bentley, Wykeham and Hobson). One of the effects was that you didn’t really know folks in the other houses. Indeed someone with whom I had grown up in our local village and through primary school was in a different house and that effectively separated us at secondary school. However, upon reaching the sixth form the house structure fell away and those of you who stayed on were tumbled back together.

I was no natural sportsman, and was a bit bookish and geeky and so took time to make friends. In time however, my enjoyment of field hockey (spurred by hy dislike of football and rugby) brought me close to a small group of lads whom I had not known well.