As I sat down to a milky coffee and admired the grey beauty of a misty winter's morning in England, I once again found myself in a state of mild shock. For once again on my birthday, I find myself, as I have done for each of the last five birthdays, flabbergasted at the generosity of the Ken-Friends.
As I read through all the names and contemplated all those far away places it was very hard not to be deeply touched by this latest act of generosity. Having been in Belfast earlier this year I was able to make a direct connection between this huge effort and the smiling faces of student after student who told me about their trip to London, or their Drama workshop or their orchestral training, or any number of other events and experiences which had had a massive impact on them and which simply wouldn't have been possible without all of you.
This kindness has enhanced the lives of a large and growing number of young people in Northern Ireland.
You have made a difference and with profound gratitude and deep humility, I thank you.
May I wish you all a splendid holiday season and a healthy and peaceful New Year, and I hope that in the coming months I can produce the kind of work that helps acknowledge the kindness and support that you have all given me over the years.
With heartfelt affection,