I am very sad. The health of my dear friend, Jacky, has taken a turn for the worse.

It was Jacky who built my bassin five years ago and has looked after it ever since, as well as planting 30 olive trees. Here he is in 2014, sitting beside the newly inaugurated pool.

Jacky and his wife, Marthe, the painter (three of her paintings are highpoint in my house) have become such good friends. Jacky is a clever, funny, gregarious soul who until recently enjoyed entertaining his friends with endless jokes and stories.

Last winter he learnt that he had lung cancer and that it had metastased. Rather than undergoing chemotherapy, he has been having a treatment I have never heard of before: immunotherapy. Miraculously, over the past few months, the secondary cancers retreated and seemed to disappear . We all kept our fingers crossed in what seemed to be a story which defied the laws of probability.

Despite being often tired, Jacky seemed determined to carry on with life as normal, albeit for shorter hours. He has been coming regularly to help with maintenance of the pool and brushed off suggestions that he should bring someone with him to do any hard physical work.

Then yesterday he texted to say he was coming to see me, ostensibly to do something with the pool, but I sensed better. I asked him how the pet scan on Monday had gone. Not well, he said. The oncologist had been visibly upset when she told him that the secondary cancers had returned, with a vengeance. The immunotherapy was no longer doing its work. He will be starting chemotherapy on Monday.

What could I say but give him a hug? He knows how upset I am and I am touched that he had in fact come to break the news himself rather than my hearing it on the grapevine. Together we turned off the basin’s pump prematurely. The sand in the main filter has clogged up. Jacky said he knows he should have changed it before filling up the bassin at the start of the season, but we both know he was not up to it.

He will now be returning with his son, Julien, to show him what has to be done to replace the sand in winter. And, without saying it, I knew what he was at last doing – something till now he has been in denial about – was preparing for when he can no longer look after my bassin. It breaks my heart.

He did not even accept his usual coffee and our session together putting the world to rights. Next time, he promised, when he comes with Julien, coffee will be on the agenda.

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