Here’s something I’ve not been able to write much in recent times…..I’ve actually been quite busy this week. I’ve been recording and writing ‘Last Word’, which is aired on Radio 4 this afternoon at 4pm (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000jhp2). You might imagine that a programme about those who have recently died would be a downbeat one, but – more often than not – exactly the opposite is true. It’s a chance to celebrate people who have lived life to the full, and this week we tell the story of – among others – Margaret Maughan.
Margaret was paralysed in a road accident in Malawi in 1959. A year later she was competing at the Paralympic Games in Rome, winning Britain’s first ever gold medal at the event. Conversations with my Radio 4 colleague, Peter White, and with multiple gold-medal winner, Tanni Grey-Thompson, revealed the huge gulf between the Paralympics then and now. When Margaret arrived in Rome in 1960 she and other competitors were carried off the plane in their wheelchairs, the accommodation they were placed in was – inaccessibly – built on stilts, and such was the shambolic nature of the judging that she was only told she’d won gold in the archery when she was back on the team coach. “Sorry, Margaret, they need you on the podium”, was roughly the message she received. 52 years later, as Tanni recalled, she was lighting the flame at the London Games.
The other thing that’s kept me busy this week taps into a theme I’ve touched on here before and one which a lot of us are contemplating just now – that feeling of being left behind by the easing of some of the lockdown rules. Left behind because the easing doesn’t necessarily apply to those of us who are shielding or self-isolating. Some, arguably most, of the questions I posed in the Daily Telegraph two weeks ago are still applicable (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/rest-britain-gets-moving-condemned-lockdown/).
But ‘left behind’ extends beyond those of us who are strongly advised to do as those shielding letters recommend. For some – people left behind in society for all manner of complicated reasons and who find themselves homeless or, at the very least, vulnerably housed – coronavirus has meant fewer services and less help, especially face to face help. And that leads me to a shameless plug, but – I think – a very worthy one. I’ve also been busy this week recording a series of zoom interviews with supporters of the St Martin’s charity (https://www.smitfc.org/casestudy/about-the-emergency-appeal/). This looks ahead to a concert, being streamed live online at 7pm on Sunday (https://www.stmartin-in-the-fields.org/announcing-keep-our-doors-open-concert/). It’s free to watch, but obviously a donation will be very much appreciated. OK, plug over. Enjoy the music.