Sunday 9 June 2024

Seeing Dr Michael Mosley

It was a shock to hear last week that Michael Mosley had gone missing while on holiday on a Greek island. You don't expect things like that to happen to household-name TV personalities. 

I didn't like the sound of it. Although very health-conscious, as you'd expect a trained doctor to be, he was nevertheless aged 67, and as likely as any man in late middle age to lose his footing in the rocky terrain that we saw on our screens. One isn't so steady afoot as when one was younger! I knew from my own experience on rocky beaches and headlands in this country how easy it can be to slip or trip, then lose one's balance, and take a tumble. I've slithered backwards onto hard rock (April 2016, when I was aged nearly 64), and I've also taken a header first onto stony ground and then into the middle of a gorse bush (September 2020 when aged 68). Both experiences hurt, but I didn't come to lasting harm. However, I might so easily have been a hospital case. It's made me very wary of clambering about on rocky outcrops. 

And Michael Mosley faced other risks. It was an exceptionally hot day. There was the possibility of heat exhaustion, or the sun's glare leading to a debilitating eye condition. Nor was he carrying his mobile phone, for GPS, or in case of an emergency. He was however wearing sunglasses and a cap, and had an umbrella for use as a parasol. So in his own judgement, he may have felt adequately equipped for a hot tramp, with a cool rest at the end of it. He must certainly have been fitter and healthier than most 67 year olds. And he had that adventurous itch to explore, and find out for himself.  

As I write, the coroner's report is still awaited, but we know his rocky walk ended tragically. I feel so sorry for his wife and family. And sad for a likeable man whose TV programmes and appearances I enjoyed and learned from. 

I saw him in 2020 at an event where I would normally have had the opportunity for a few words. Except that it was a coronavirus year, and I had instead to observe him being interviewed about his life and books from a distance. 

This was at an evening event during the Appledore Book Festival in North Devon, on 19th September 2020. It was the last year I attended the Festival. I'd been coming to it each year from 2012, excepting only 2013, and in later years I'd paid for 'Friend of the ABF' status, which not gave one access to Friend-only lunches and parties, but priority as regards booking event tickets. Usually I'd spend over £100 to see a dozen or so authors discussing their latest book. But in 2020, in compliance with social distancing rules, all events were held in a field that you drove your car into, and viewed the event from. You got a marked-out square to park on, just large enough to place a few chairs around the car, if you were a family or a group and wanted to sit out in the open air. 

The problem for me with this drive-in arrangement was the cost of attending events. Tickets were priced for the car: say £30. If there were four people in the car, the cost per person was reasonable. If (as in my case) there was only the driver, £30 was expensive. So I bought tickets for only three events: Iain Dale, the LBC presenter; Jeremy Vine of BBC Radio 2 fame; and Dr Michael Mosley

This shot below (taken in daytime) shows the view from my car Fiona. The author was interviewed on the small covered 'stage' (centre left), simultaneously videoed, and then a greatly-enlarged picture was shown in real time on that big screen, accompanied by excellent sound. I could hoick myself up on the door sill to get a slightly better view. (Bear in mind that I was using a wide-angle lens, and so the interview and the screen were in reality very much closer)

This was how it was on the evening I saw Michael Mosley. It was a little chilly, so I stayed inside Fiona:

Michael Mosley was being interviewed by Jeremy Vine (who was also a patron of the Book Festival). I zoomed in on the big screen and took some shots. I used spot metering on the screen, to get the exposure correct. The two men were relaxed with each other, and I remember that it was most entertaining, with Michael Mosley discussing his two new books on sleeping and coronavirus, giving plenty of easy-to-follow tips to the audience and telling plenty of anecdotes.

Pre-pandemic, there would afterwards have been a book-signing session. On those occasions there was the chance of being really close to the author, and of saying something to him or her. But not in 2020. One just drove away. So I didn't actually speak with the man. A pity.

And now, less than four years later, look what has happened. At least I have these photos as my personal souvenir of someone I liked and respected.

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