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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Wednesday, January 15, 2003
    Simpson gets personal
     
    Must be strange, if you're an unassuming sort of person, seeing yourself described in a major book knowing thousands will become familiar with you through those descriptions only. Today Dave & Helen sent me a welcome birthday gift (belated by six months but I'll let that pass), a copy of News From No Man's Land: Reporting the World by John Simpson. It's fascinating (a) because it's the BBC reporter's autobiographical account of his life in news journalism and reflections on how news is made, and (b) because accompanying him on his most famous journey, Tuesday 13 November 2001 when he took part in the 'liberation of Kabul', was someone I know - Dave's brother Peter, a senior BBC radio engineer.

    As one of Simpson's closest colleagues on his Afghan expedition Peter features throughout the book. I haven't seen him for years but feel I know him enough to see the accuracy in Simpson's opening description of him as
      "a quiet, peaceable man ... with a neatly trimmed beard which reminded me slightly of Napoleon III's, he nevertheless hinted at another side of his personality by driving a sky blue Morgan when he was in London."
    ... and the backhanded compliment:
      "beneath the greying beard and the gentle, slightly nerdish engineer's appearance there was real grit."
    On the evidence of the first chapter it looks a good read with personal interest thrown in. Tonight I'm mainly wondering how Peter must feel being revealed to the world in such terms in a best-selling book. And on at least one website too.