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  • I don't like to tell two stories a day, but this one is bursting out of me.

    A while ago, we were asked for our favourite quotations. I don't know about my favourite, but I have one which goes round and round my head:

    What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
    That he should weep for her?

    I studied Hamlet at school. We had a charismatic and morally flawed teacher. He liked to go beyond the bounds of everything - propriety and the curriculum included. Several people left the class, and we dwindled. Some days there was just a three-way conversation about Hamlet. The teacher, my friend Jonny (not his real name) and me.

    It was how I thought university would be (I was later sadly disillusioned): we talked about everything, analysed every word, every syllable.

    What I love about the Hecuba lines is that they have huge emotional power coupled with the simplicity of a nursery rhyme.

    Listen, there isn't much time, and I have to miss some bits out of this story.

    Jonny, I didn't realise at the time (we were eighteen), was a genius. He went on to be professor of a seriously, majorly important and historic institution. Which is why I haven't used his name. We kept in touch for a few years, but we had a complicated emotional relationship. He raped me, and I fell in love with his best friend.

    (writing this, I had to go outside and breathe the night air)

    What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
    That he should weep for her?

    A few years ago, I thought I should find him and make our peace. I googled him, only to find that he had just committed suicide following the death of his wife. He threw himself off a bridge, aged forty-nine.

    What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
    That he should weep for her?

    (the photo is of me performing a monologue at Seven Arts, Chapel Allerton, Leeds)
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