Tuesday, 15 May 2012


Even though I do nothing all day but "communicate" and consume news, newspapers scattered everywhere, computer blinking at me, Twitter tweetering and the telly permanently on BBC News in the background, I managed to completely miss the sad news of my former colleague David Walter's death.

I was told by another ex-colleague in a sweet email inquiring if I was aware of David's "passing".

Death is so hidden in today's world, we speak of it so rarely, that I'm struck each time by how gentle and tentative the language is. Passing seems to be a lithe, playful, transient way to describe something so definitive, so final .

I once went to Naples with David on a story and we arrived a day early to recce (I imagine none of the words in this sentence make any sense to a young BBC reporter today ). The phone rang while we were tackling an ice cream and I remember the twinkle in David's eye as he replied to our boss: "Oh yes, everything is fine. We are working ever so hard!".

David was superbly sympathetic, warm and believable on screen but also - uniquely in an industry mostly populated by egotistical monsters - managed to be the same person off air. He was as English as they come but keenly interested in Europe, not in the stereotypes so much but in the real story. Again, look away young journalistic bucks.

He was very good to me when I had nothing but a strong accent and grating levels of naivety and enthusiasm. Years later he was very good to me again when I was on the verge of leaving the BBC -downcast, scared and with my sanity hanging by a thread.

He came (and seemd in great form) to my leaving do but when I saw him next, at an event I had organised in my new job, I could tell he had been ill. He was the same sweet self, unassuming, friendly, yet right about most things he commented upon in our chat.

Turns out that right at the time when I thought my life was over he had begun to die for real.

I don't really know what to make of this realisation. The cliches don't actually help. Life, I find, doesn't seem any sweeter now I know for sure that I too will be passing some day, just a little bit more pointless. The deaths of other people weirdly fail to make me feel more alive - just a bit more alone.

Boy, what a treat old age is going to be, should I be lucky enough to get there.