That is the actress Prunella Scales answering a question of comic (and class) motivation that had troubled my father for twenty years: why on earth did they marry each other? A question that — given his own late, failed marriage to a Jamaican girl less than half his age — must have had a resonance beyond the laugh track. On finally hearing an answer, he gave a sigh of comedy-snob satisfaction. Not long after my visit, Harvey died, at the age of eighty-one. He had told me that he wanted "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" played at his funeral. When the day came, I managed to remember that.
Later, she wrote one of her best essays based around his sense of humour (his legacy was a box set of Fawlty Towers DVDs they had watched together), in which she mentions how little she wrote during those two years away, when a portion of his ashes sat in a Tupperware box on her desk. 'Imagined worlds seemed utterly pointless. I miss my dad a lot,' she says. 'Like him, I've got a fairly quiet spirit compared with some of my family, so I miss that. But at the same time, his not being around made me more fully engaged with the chaos on the other side of the family, and I learnt to enjoy it much more. My mum is 100 watts and my brothers are very charismatic, and when I was a teenager I was always like, can you all chill out a bit, please? But you realise of course that this is the engine of your fiction: you don't want your life to be ordered, quiet and controlled.'