My Week: Peter Stanford meets a former friend

Tuesday: It's an unsettling start to 2007. Staying up in Norfolk and taking in the sales in Norwich, I come face to face with an old friend from London, bitterly estranged for eight years after we ended up on opposite sides in an unfortunate case of founder-member syndrome at the charity we both worked with.

She smiled a thin, unhappy smile, muttered "hello" and walked on by, rather as you might with a neighbour you've only ever met at the corner shop. Yet this was a woman on whose shoulder I cried as a student when love affairs crashed, someone who held my hand at consultants' appointments during a cancer scare. I even taught her to drive. And now nothing. All thanks to a dispute over the future direction of a charity.

Wednesday I'm shamefully late in writing a letter of condolence to Susan, wife of Dukey Hussey, who died over Christmas at the age of 83. Best remembered as a controversial chairman of the BBC, Dukey was one of those people who delighted in life and whose death therefore somehow seems impossible.

The obituaries were long, if unpleasantly and unjustly sour, but largely overlooked his role as chairman in championing the Royal Marsden at a troubled time in this distinguished cancer hospital's long history.

My strongest memory of him concerns his awe-inspiring personal courage.

He lost a leg in the Anzio landings of January 1944, and the remaining one worked poorly. Damage to his spine left him in constant pain.

I remember once praising his leadership in refusing to allow disability to get in the way of a fulfilled life. He looked puzzled. It was clear that he had never even thought of himself as disabled.

Thursday I'm off to a New Year party thrown by a trust that looks after a wonderful, old but now largely redundant church. By leaving the party until after the December rush, they seem to have hit upon something that perhaps we could learn from.

I'm a bit of a party pooper in the run-up to Christmas. This is partly because, although I have almost perfect recall for the faces and details of people I went to primary school with, I am hard-pressed to remember anyone I met at length the previous week. I need a download button so I can clear out all those ancient memories and make space in my clearly fully booked brain for some new data.

But the New Year seems to instil new and probably unjustified confidence in my ability to network, so I go - and thoroughly enjoy myself. So much so that I come home a convert to parties. Until next December, at least.

Peter Stanford, is a writer and broadcaster, and chairman of Aspire 

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