TWO years ago, just as the Spring bulbs were starting to push up through the warming soil, and the garden birds were finding their voices, we said goodbye to my best pal, Nick, after a long, cruel fight against cancer.

The day of her funeral was a typical March experience, with four seasons in just a few hours. Now Spring reminds me of those dark days, when her strength was ebbing away, just as new life is sprouting all around.

Nick was buried in the beautiful churchyard in her home village of Welbury, near Northallerton, just days before what should have been her 35th birthday. Mourners spilled outside the packed church and stood among the graves, such was the number who came to pay their respects.

In Australia, where she lived for many years, large numbers gathered to watch the service on a live link via the wonders of social media.

Afterwards, we all laughed, cried, and remembered together at the Golden Lion in Northallerton – and placed bets on the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, as she would have been doing if she was still with us, probably with more success.

Inevitably, with this period of lockdown, there is more time for thinking, and Nick has been on my mind, as I ponder on what that straight-talking Yorkshirewoman would have made of the situation.

Her illness gave her an entirely new perspective on life, and what is of value. She spent her final months with family, and close friends, living day to day to see what activity, if any, her symptoms, and pain levels, would allow.

Simple things like a walk in the countryside, crafting with her beloved nieces, or feeling the sunshine on her back, became the moments that carried her through.

This appreciation of simple things is one of the many lessons I took from Nick, and it is something I try to carry with me each day.

I don’t always succeed – it’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of life, rushing from one meeting to the next, not making enough time for family and friends, not standing still for long enough to feel that sunshine. But I try, and I think that would be enough for Nick.

When the ground under your feet shifts like this, as it has for all of us while the coronavirus outbreak marches on, it is human nature to look for meaning in a tragedy. Sometimes there is no meaning, it’s just bloody bad luck, but if we can learn from it, then all is not lost.

If, at the end of this awful time, we can remember how to reconnect with what is truly important, that will be one bright spot to focus on, as we tackle the challenges that will surely follow.

AS well as the daily fresh air, video calls with family and copious amounts of Cadbury’s chocolate, one thing that has been keeping me sane this week has been the genius decision of the BBC to replay the full radio commentary of last summer’s third Ashes test at Headingley.

Test Match Special is a glorious thing at the best of time, and at the worst of times, it brings the promise of better days. Hearing grumpy Geoffrey Boycott at lunch on the third day, as all seemed lost for England, was a real tonic. Enter Ben Stokes. That’s my Saturday sorted.