Saturday, 20 June 2009

Meeting Debbie Purdy

I think I'm experiencing a sort of post-traumatic stress! Don't you get flashbacks and relive the past? Yesterday we spent a sunny day in Regent's Park. The last time we'd been there was 37 years ago, when Jane and I went to see 'Twelfth Night' in the Open Air Theatre - a romantic tryst, as Gillian commented. This time it was rather different. We were there to meet Debbie Purdy and her husband Omar Puentes on camera, for the BBC. As I've said, it was for the Politics Show on Sunday morning, and the idea was to have us meeting up somewhere to discuss the issue of assisted suicide because it's meant to be debated as an amendment in the Lords next week. I felt that I was a lightweight compared to her, having appeared on TV a lot and honing her arguments in the process, which I've never done, and of course my voice being as it is felt like a handicap.

Anyway meeting her was a pleasant surprise. We were both in wheelchairs, hers electric, mine powered by Jane - which helped. We're both living with 'terminal illness', MS and MND. We both have incredible loving partners. But of course we differ in our views on assisted suicide. She wants the possibility; I don't. She wants someone who assists her (and those like us) to take our own lives to be immune from prosecution. I want that to remain a discretion but not a norm, in order to protect those who might be vulnerable to pressure or persuasion. The producer wanted to see if we could find any common ground.... I'll not spoil her programme by saying whether we did or not!

But at least we didn't come to fisticuffs, and we got on really well, I think. At least I really liked both her and Omar (who has a jazz CD coming out in the autumn, by the way). And we talked away almost non-stop on and off camera, and that's saying something in that we met 12 and parted at 4. I guess she wouldn't mind my saying she talked more than me, but that was mainly an effect of my speech difficulty. She's a really positive person. At one point we talked about faith. She said she didn't have my strong faith. I told her sometimes I hung on by a thread, and actually I didn't think 'religious' faith made pain and dying easier to experience. And I tried to say that everyone has a faith in something; everyone has presuppositions that underlie their opinions. So having a faith doesn't invalidate opinions. We also talked about the sort of society we'd like to see. When I talked about a compassionate one, Debbie questioned whether compassion meant allowing people suffer without a way out.

Anyway the producer, presenter and cameraman were endlessly patient, wanting to get the best out of us and I'm sure wanting to end up with an excellent finished product - which I have no doubt it will be. They had quite a bit to contend with: a curious pigeon, an inquisitive child, theatre noises, missing taxis, a temperamental camera, passing clouds, wind and so on. But they never seemed to lose their cool. They didn't disillusion my impression of Wednesday. Great professionals. For us the bonus was Regents Park itself: there was a beautiful bed of delphiniums and beds of massed roses, and the park itself, all on a beautiful mid-summery day. After a late lunch (4ish!) we were able to wander by ourselves beside the lake through the gardens to the east gate. And happily the journey home took an hour less than coming in, which was amazing for a Friday afternoon. I think we were on the only motorway (M40) which wasn't snarled up a bit or a lot.

It was a good day, all in all, but the only problem was that I spent quite a bit of the night reliving our conversations and thinking what I might have said better. I need to break the traumatic cycle! Fortunately I have a date to watch the Lions v South Africa rugby match with Peter at The Bay Tree this afternoon, which might do the trick.

1 comment:

  1. Hoping my digibox recorder worked this morning!
    You've been tagged at the Friends' Meeting House