One of the best things about the last few years is that I ended up as a country neighbour to John Mortimer. His house was a short walk away in the woods and every time I went there I knew that there would be talk, drink, gossip, mockery of our great leaders, almost certainly a heavy argument and then rolling back home knowing that you'd been in company as good as it gets. John and Penny were irresistible - even their squabbles made you laugh.
I've known him for years. I made a film about him and never had a dud moment with him. It wasn't only the jokes and the stories and the roguish malice but the unshakeable core of the man. The pillars of his mind were in the liberties of England, which had to be defended at all costs and extended wherever possible. And in literature. He was soaked in Shakespeare, steeped in Dickens, an everyman library in the great writers and the great laws of this country.
It was bold of him to take on the Oz trial in 1971. Richard Neville, Jim Anderson and Felix Dennis, among other young radical hippies, had been accused of obscenity. The law was outraged. John was equally outraged that they had been censored. It was typical of him to defend the publication of Lady Chatterley's Lover, while at the same time insisting that he thought it was not a good novel.
He was dancing in the streets when Labour was elected in 1997, but at the throats of the Labour government when in his opinion they over-extended the grip of the state on what he thought of as the historic and inalienable rights of the citizens of this country.
He never hid his love of the pleasures of life, and as for champagne - I believe the first glass went down about 6am after an hour's writing, and consumption continued until bedtime.
To the accusation that he was a champagne socialist he always replied that his ambition was to enrol everyone in that club.
He created a great Dickensian character in Rumpole - it's given to few writers to invent such a figure. And the core of Rumpole was the core of John.
For all his amusement at the world, he was full-fixed on the liberties of those he was defending.
In A Voyage Round My Father he not only paid great tribute to his blind father, in so many of whose steps he followed, but created a classic.
I used to call him Good Sir John and he loved to tweak me by calling me M'Lord. As often as not it was the affectionate opening for a full and frank discussion about where the Labour party was going badly wrong.
I sometimes disagreed with him, I never fell out with him. There are an enormous number of people whose lives he made happier and better by his writing, by the stand he took on public causes, and by the irradiation of his remarkably complex, but completely charming, English character.