A day in my life. It goes by at shutter speed, and too quickly.
Car pulls up outside our house, and my wife Nic helps me into it. She has our bags, our clothes for this evening, we’re on the way to London. Actual fact, we’ve only just got home from appearing on BBC Breakfast in Manchester, so everything’s a bit hurried. We’re holding it together, but flying by the seat of.
Driver’s name is Paddy, and he knows where he’s heading. He drives us calmly down through the flat badlands of Lincolnshire, a hundred miles south on the A1, right into the expensive bit of London.
Mayfair. Most definitely, this is not my manor. I’m originally from Essex, Nic’s from Peckham, and now we live in Rutland (where’s Rutland?). So, we kind of don’t belong. We’re intruders, and this is the big time.
Paddy pulls up outside the Stafford Hotel, then helps extract me from the back seat. I’ve got four artificial limbs, so I make my entrance to the lobby of the five star hotel with all the grace of a drunken giraffe. Think, Lee Evans on ice. With luggage.
Inside, it’s beyond posh. It’s quiet, elegant. Cosy bars and niches, exquisite furniture. Impeccably dressed chaps in the corner doing lucrative deals. Hush now. All very Henry James – and have what you want at the bar. It’s late afternoon. How about a whisky, sir?
Our room is a suite with a huge bed, beautiful marble bathroom and a rock star minibar. Our film star friend Jo Froggatt has sent her make-up artist and her hairdresser to help Nic get ready. I loaf. This is bliss.
Our kids are here. They each have five star rooms of their own. Grace, 19, has travelled down first class from Manchester, where she has just started university. Freddie, 16, is busy checking out his flat screen TV and texting on his phone. We all sit together for a moment, on our massive bed. I make them groan when I quote my favourite line from ‘It’s Complicated’: “I love it when we’re all in the same time zone…”
Nic steps out looking stunning. She is wearing a long black jumpsuit and she looks beautiful. I am so proud to be married to her.
Half an hour later, Paddy drops us off at the Curzon cinema.
Can I put into words how it makes me feel seeing the name of the movie about our lives, up on the outside of the cinema?
Massive film poster showing Jo Froggatt as Nic, with a broad, loving smile.
My heart stops. This.
After all we have been through.
Inside the cinema foyer, there are five hundred people. Flashing cameras dazzle and the evening starts to dance in my eyes. A journalist thrusts a mic in front of us, a cameraman films us talking – then, shocked, I realise there’s a line of journalists waiting to talk to us. A line. OK. So, in 60 second soundbites, and pretending this is normal for us, we go along, talking about the drama of my illness. “How did you feel when you woke up and found that your arms, legs and face had been amputated? Quickly now – tell us!”
Audience packed. There are celebrities. Wow. People off the telly.
We all watch the film. Every time I see it, it gets more beautiful. The music makes my head spin. It’s captivating. Rutland Water looks like heaven on earth. So grateful and humbled that Tom Riley and Jo captured that wonderful lifestyle Nic and I had in the cottage by the lake, just before my illness struck. My love for Nic goes so deep and somehow they caught it. It’s there now in film, forever, and I have it. Thank you.
The film ends, there’s a standing ovation.
Thank you for saving my life, Nic.
I don’t know how we got here, but we did. And, now, with a standing ovation.
Starfish - the book
There's an exciting book coming soon that closely mirrors Starfish the film and tells our story. It's frank and it's intimate. It's about love, loss and the extremes we have been through in order to hold on to our family.