On my 70th birthday, my dear friend Chris Beetles congratulated me on fulfilling the Maker's contract. This was when I realised the time had come to put aside my Tigger tendencies and finally accept that I might be mortal.
The following day, I set about preparing for the only other certainty in life: taxes. To that end, I asked my wife Mary and our two sons, William and James, to select those paintings and sculptures from my collection they felt should remain in the family. Once they'd made their choices, I invited the directors of the Ashmolean and Fitzwilliam Museums, Timothy Wilson and Tim Potts, to select six pieces each they would like to see displayed in their museums. Both surprised me with their final choices.
However, it was Mary who changed the rules of the game, not for the first time, and told me that as chairman of Cambridge University Hospitals (Addenbrooke's and the Rosie), she would like me to dispose of some other pieces from our collection in order to make a donation towards the building of a new children's hospital on the Cambridge campus, as well as giving to other charities we have both supported over the years. Because of that decision, this sale includes several paintings, sculptures, watercolours and drawings from my private collection.
After decades of collecting, I will surely regret letting go of the Monet, La Seine près de Vétheuil, Warhol's Marilyn, Buffet's London Parlement, and Rodin's Prodigal Son. However, I feel confident they will give further decades of pleasure to their new owners.
Once I know how much the sale has raised, and what will be deducted by the taxman, I intend to make further donations to the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Youth Ballet, and the British Library, along with several other educational establishments Mary and I have been associated with during our lifetimes.
Naturally, I am a little sad to be disposing of some of my favourite possessions, and can only hope they will go to collectors who still suffer from the illusion they are immortal.