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Friday, 11 October 2013

Paris, and How John Abberley Saved My Life


After months of work, our BBC television project jumped an important hurdle a short while ago. If I obsessed about things like this, I'd be working myself into a lather deeper than Liberace's bubble-bath.  But it's Someone Else's Problem, since there is very little I can do to push matters one way or the other.

But I'm getting an insider view of a process which demands loads of patience and persistence, and LOTS of time


not to mention a degree in bureaucracy.   As one of the producers said of the endless discussions,  "We must look like goldfish swimming round and round in a bowl, with our mouths opening and shutting."   Or, (I thought) like being caught in a particularly tangled wood....


I've spent a lot of time one way and another observing the BBC from not-quite-inside and not-quite-outside. T. worked on BBC staff for years in London, and also spent three years at a BBC local radio station in his early days.  My contribution wasn't important but they were such a nice group of people and I was very grateful to tag along.

They had some lovely reporters at this station. One, John, specialised at turning up at the very last moment for his reports.  He was always doing something more interesting or enjoyable that didn't involve rushing around....


It was sometimes my job to haul him away and into the studio to deliver his spiel.

But I remember him very fondly, and with enormous gratitude, becauselong ago he saved my life, and the life of my baby.  In fact, I still get the creeps


when I think of that incident, and how easily it could have gone the other way.

It happened when I was sitting in the back seat of a car, feeding my oldest daughter, who was too tiny even to hold her head up at the time. John happened to be standing outside the studio chatting to a group of friends.

All of a sudden, I noticed that the scenery outside the windows was moving, and John and his friends were disappearing from view.   Yes, either they, or else the car, were just not staying in the same place.

Oh, it was the car that was moving! The  handbrake had slipped and it had started to drive itself downhill - a steep hill with a busy traffic intersection at the bottom.

I tried to leap up,  my brain racing across the possibility of steering with one hand and pulling the handbrake with the other. But my baby was screaming and flailing, and I couldn't reach over the front seat or stand up anyhow.

The car was picking up speed.  Before I could think any further, John had hurled himself into the front seat, slammed on the brakes,  grabbed the wheel and steered us to safety.  He had spotted what was happening, amd raced across the street (at risk to his own life) to save the situation.

I often think of that, and wonder what would have happened if he had not reacted so fast.  He was no spring chicken even then, but maybe his quick wits were the reason he only turned up for live broadcasts till the last minute. He just liked living that way.

We lost touch for many years after we moved back to London, but I found this clip of him on Youtube, performing at his 75th birthday party.  He had still not completely retired.



So here's the man who almost certainly saved me and my daughter from something terrible.  Sadly he's died now, but I am glad I'd got back in touch before and told him how grateful I will always be to him.

When you read this I'll be on my way back from Paris..  In honour of it, I've illustrated this post with pictures  from my last trip to Paris, a couple of years ago.  This wonderful Parisian mural below is by Raoul Dufy, who is an underrated painter these days, I think.  Do you agree it might be time for Dufy to have a comeback?




47 comments:

  1. It was an odd and enjoyable experience to read your post and see your photos at the same time. It rendered your article surreal. That was one of the reasons why I enjoyed reading it so much. Wish you the best of luck with the BBC venture.

    Have a great weekend.

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  2. What a wonderful life story. What an interesting life! So important that you have kept the friendship up.

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  3. That was a close shave. A situation like that would stay in your mind for ever, no way could you ever forget it. You were very fortunate that John A. came, saw and rescued.

    Lovely Paris pictures. But I am more interested in what your BBC reference is all about. Will you tell us?

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  4. PS: Yes, Dufy’s work deserves refreshment. He’s nothing if not stimulating.

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  5. I'm glad that you were able to make contact with John again.
    I too like Dufy.

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  6. Very touching experience, timely reaction saved your life.

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  7. Dufy has never been considered very important here in the States, but I've always enjoyed his work.

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  8. What a scary incident that must have been, with you and your daughter in the back of a moving car.

    Looking forward to your pictures of your current visit to Paris!

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  9. What a story and what a lovely touch to know you reconnected in time before he died. A chance not many people get. Paris is always wonderful to see.

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  10. An amazing story Jenny! Your friend was most definitely a hero. Wonderful pictures also. Safe travels!

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  11. What a great story. Phew!

    I hope Paris went well. I lived and worked there for 10 years and the photos bring back memories.

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  12. In such moments are our lives changed irrevocably. Or not, as the case may be. Thank Heavens for quick reactions. I trust your return from Paris is less eventful.

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  13. It's good to know that the BBC project is advancing. I'm sure there are many hurdles but at least they're all leading in the right direction. I like all the photos that you've chosen to illustrate this post - especially that interesting tangle of clocks.

    The tale of the runaway car is amazing. How truly fortunate that John was there to save the day. What a heroic rescue! And what a delightful Durante impression he gave at the age of 75.

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  14. Wow, a dramatic story. How fortunate that someone so quick-witted and decisive came to the rescue and saved you from imminent disaster. And interesting that even though he turned up for everything in the nick of time he always did a good job. He must have had a great ability to think on his feet.

    I do agree, Dufy is very under-rated and deserves a wider audience.

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  15. I always go cold when I read of incidents like the one you experienced. The lovely thing is that you were able later on to remind him of how you felt. Someone's actions saved my life once (in a less dramatic way) and every now and then I drop a note to say how much I still appreciate it.

    Raoul Dufy is an artist of whom I'd never heard until now. Something else to explore.

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  16. What a wonderful man. It must be odd knowing your life could have been very different without him.

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  17. Oh these moments that change lives - they are over in a flash and live with us forever. So glad you got in touch before he died - it must have been wonderful for both of you, even though the memory it still so terrible and so vivid.

    Ah Paris ....

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  18. wow, that's quite a story. no wonder you felt so grateful. sometimes things can go either way, in a split second and what a person does at that moment can make all the difference. glad it was such a happy ending.

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  19. Beautiful story and pictures...

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  20. Wow, that could have been nasty. Well done to John, and I'm glad you were able to say thank you to him again.

    Hope you had a good time in Paris.

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  21. Oh, Jenny, I'm so grateful John Adderley was able to save your life and that of your child. What a gift he gave all of us who enjoy reading your blog and I'm sure, so much more. I'm glad you two could connect before his death -- he will always be a guardian angel to you, I think.

    A tad envious on the Paris trip. I loved the Dufy mural you showed -- wish I'd seen it in person and yes, a comeback would be welcome. I'm glad the BBC is still in motion. Believe me, I know how long it takes projects to get off the ground in the TV world, particularly on that level. Suddenly, it's not just a single station wanting to make a show but a network -- and a super net at that. I think often of this and hope that one day I'll be able to see you on TV (or at least your creation!).

    Thanks for coming by the Gypsy today -- someday maybe your travels will bring you stateside and if it's in August or September, I have lots of things you would enjoy in Michigan!

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  22. What a man he was indeed! Not many of us can actually say we have saved someone's life in that way.

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  23. wow what a story eh? glad he saved you....
    love all the art that you captured...the tire clocks and that last one in particular...striking...cool stuff...

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  24. It looks like you have a lot on your plate! Things are stalling a bit for me. Sigh.

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  25. Well, probably one thing for sure is we wouldn't be reading this post if John had done what he did. What a cool head he must have had and one made for clear, quick thinking. How terrifying it would've been for you. Thank goodness he was there.

    When I was looking at the photo of the great old building with the wonderful nude sculptures, the ornate old street lamp and the busker...I couldn't help but think about the protests some in today's society would make if anyone dared building a building and allowed stunning sculpture like that on it. In many ways we've progressed; and yet in others we've not. You could guarantee some would be up in arms at the nudity...funny that!

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  26. A very brave man, and a hero with it. What quick thinking! Love the Dufy!

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  27. WOW what a great story and it sounds like something out of a movie! (or MAYBE that's where the movies got the idea from). Every time I have a friend or student go to Paris, I tell them to make sure they eat french fries sold under the Eiffel Tower. Best fries I have ever had.

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  28. I stopped breathing! That is an incredibly frightening story! I would have nad nightmares for the rest of my life! And YES - that is art worth reviving!

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  29. I haven't been to Paris since I was 14 years old, keep meaning to but never quite make it. What a dreadful experience with the car and how fortunate that such a brave and quick witted man was there to save the day.

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  30. You are lucky, John was in right place and in right time and it's wonderful you could say him the words of gratitude before he's passed. Dufy's work is interesting!

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  31. The business side of a creative process moves so slowly, doesn’t it?

    And what a dramatic story of how John saved your life. Oh, to be as quick-witted as this interesting man seemed to be. With thoughts of Thanksgiving in my world, I can see why experiencing a near disaster makes one just a little more grateful to be alive perhaps than those that don’t.

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  32. Enjoying a lovely catch up with your blog, Wimborne I know as we often used to holiday as children in Dorset, beautiful area. What a scary moment that must have been, thank goodness John realised and rushed in to save you both.

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  33. Wow what a story! Must have been a horrible moment. Thank heavens for your kind and brave saviour.

    (On an unrelated note, hurrah for a Dufy comeback - I have always loved his vivid colours and striking work!)

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  34. What well chosen photographs. Well done to your brave friend also.
    Shame about the media types mind.

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  35. Wow, what a fabulous story! Thank goodness for his quick thinking!

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  36. Beautiful photos!
    Greetings, RW & SK

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  37. That was some story of you being in the back seat with your baby and the nice man jumping in and saving you. Good thing for you that he was so quick-thinking!
    I really like those colors of the painting. We need more color in this world.

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  38. Amazing, John was a hero and I'm so happy the tale had a good ending. Hope you are having a good time in Paris.

    Darla

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  39. Oh Jenny how wonderful you were able to reunite with John and have your say before he passed! A frightening story for sure - with a blessed happy ending.
    Clever girl, the images were so apt to the narrative!
    So pleased for you that the BBC production is progressing. Great news.
    Paris! one day, one day.
    Have a wonderful week dear Jenny.

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  40. Goodness what a terrible scare - God bless John and his quick wits.

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  41. How good that you got back in touch with John before he died!
    Your Parisian pictures are wonderful. I especially love the "tangled woods" one.

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  42. Oh, my! what a tale! I'm glad John was quick witted. I really enjoyed how you illustrated this story. That tower of clocks is wonderful. I hope Paris was a good time.

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  43. Sorry to hear of your loss. He sounds like a good man. I was fortunate enough to visit Paris when I was 18 and would love to go back.

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  44. So glad you were able to contact John in time to (re)express your gratitude and it is perhaps due to him I gain pleasure from reading your excellent and educational posts.

    Pics are tremendous Jenny.

    Anna :o]

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  45. Thank you for the many kind and nice comments. I hadn't thought of it like that, Anna, but then I got to thinking of how different life would have been..... OMG It's not often I have had that helpless feeling of "well, wait for it....." (Once or twice as a small child, when I fell off a swing and knew I'd hit the ground. )

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  46. Wonderful photos, and a great story. John was quite the hero. You were blessed with a real-life guardian angel.

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  47. Your Abberley story is precious. I just admire people like that - living life to the fullest at every moment. And it seems, he was always at the right place at the right moment too. (Forget wasting time waiting in between.)

    I enjoyed the photos you chose to illustrate this post with. What a strange, mangled bit of clockwork that clock "tower" is! So much time. And the statue staving off those tree limbs. And I've liked a lot of the Dufy works I've seen in museums. The one you show, due to its size and use of color, remind me of the Chagall murals.

    You have quite a story to tell your baby (now child?). In fact, we (your readers) are all glad you survived to tell your tales! Wishing you luck with the BBC as you wait ...

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