Damian Thompson, posing with a group of his most loyal readers.
I have always regarded Eccles as one of the most valued commentators on my Telegraph blog: his comments, made from the perspective of a truly saved person, have invariably been incisive and witty, and it was a great loss to all of us when he left the "Holy Smoke" community and decided to concentrate on his own blog.
Eccles - a man with very good hair.
Of course I do have one or two other brilliant commentators, with whom I engage regularly on my blog. For example, there is Eccles's Auntie Moly or "molybdenite," who may be a senile gin-soaked old thug, but who is nonetheless always ready to insult people in a way that I can only dream of emulating. Another person whose comments I appreciate is "Sister Muriel," from the church of St Daryl the Apostate down in the southwest, who tells me he is "a priest in good standing, sweetie."
But I digress. Eccles and I have shared many good times together, and I am very grateful to him for giving some publicity to the new hair salon that I have just opened. Here clients can get a truly Catholic haircut while listening to the sound of Gladys Mills playing Bach's Well-tempered Clavier.
My new hair salon
One question that I don't have the space to answer today is: "How on earth did a brilliant journalist like Cristina Odone, The John Humphrys of the Telegraph blogs as she calls herself, ever condescend to join my team?" Eccles describes her as "Damian's cook," and it is true that I rely on her for my morning cupcakes, but she is also a brilliant interrogator, one who does not hesitate to shout abuse at Chris Patten when we hear his voice on the Today Programme.
Eccles does not seem to have fully explained my relations with the "Magic Circle" of bishops which constitutes the main Vaticosceptic opposition to Pope Benedict XVI in this country. He seems to believe that I am in some ways less than totally enthusiastic about Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. Well, this is not the case - I regard Cormac as a mentor, and as one of my closest friends.
The Cormac Singers performing Happy Birthday in my honour.
Indeed, at present I am rather worried because the Pope has sent Cormac off to Bangladesh as his special envoy - an arduous trip for an 80-year-old man, which will involve his sleeping in a snake-infested mangrove swamp and living on a diet of frogs and insects. If he survives this, the Holy Father is next proposing to send Cormac as special envoy to the South Pole in his unique Mission to the Penguins.
It's all right, Cardinal, I don't eat meat on Fridays.
Apart from that, Eccles's blog seems to be 100% accurate. As he claims, he is still staying with his aunt as my guest at Castle Thompson, and he really is one of my closest friends: I certainly would not be able to write my weekly Telegraph column without his invaluable ideas.
Thanks to Eccles, I am not unknown in Latin-speaking circles!