It's hard to pinpoint when your childhood ends and adulthood begins. One minute you're throwing your dolls out of trees on makeshift parachutes and the next you're wearing cherry flavoured lip gloss and mooning over a boy who doesn't know your name. One second later and you've got a mortgage, a credit card and a large collection of handbags, plus a few grey hairs thrown in for good measure.
But every now and then something takes you out of your grown up life and back to your younger days with a sudden jolt. A memory or a moment catches you unawares and reminds you that there was a time when monsters existed and the safest place was behind the settee.
I had one of those moments yesterday. Nicholas Courtney passed away yesterday at the age of 81 and he took another little piece of my childhood with him. Quite a big bit, actually. For the children of the Seventies Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart was as synonymous with Doctor Who as the TARDIS or even the Doctor himself. The Brig, as he was affectionately known, led UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) and thanks to the Doctor each time the UK hosted strange alien life forms the Brig was there to greet them with a mixture of bemusement and exasperation. Often he tried to shoot them. It wasn't always the most successful approach to defending the planet but he remained steadfast and unflappable as the stood alongside the Doctor - well, lots of them, actually - and faced danger head on, armed with his army issue pistol and his marvellously rich voice. With his calm demeanour, no nonsense approach, smart uniform and magnificent moustache, the Brig was the very epitome of a hero.
Yesterday, I found out that my childhood hero was no longer with us and I'm still a bit tearful today. I hadn't realised how much I loved The Brig. Jon Pertwee was my doctor but perhaps if I'm honest I loved The Brig more than any Doctor. He made it safe to come out from behind the settee on a Saturday night.
RIP Nick. Thank you for everything. Splendid fellow.