Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Sayle of the century

Nothing makes me feel more inadequate than reading the obituary pages, particularly the obituaries of fellow journalists who in their day were more adventurers than hacks, artists rather than space-fillers.

As I sit at my desk in Wapping surveying the fruits of yesterday's labours (a full-page graphic, two Question and Answers on golf, a panel on famous Irish golfers, a brief on cricket and a compilation of tweets), I came across this obituary of Murray Sayle, formerly of The Sunday Times. He climbed Everest, sailed across the Atlantic single-handed, tracked Che Guevara to ground in Bolivia and got the only interview of Kim Philby in Moscow post-defection.

Meanwhile, I've been asked to see what celebrities are saying about the Ryder Cup on Twitter. Yes, this is where a Cambridge degree and nine years on a national newspaper can lead.

There is a lovely anecdote about Sayle in the "Lives Remembered" section of today's Times. Arriving at Tel Aviv airport in 1967 as war broke out between Israel and Egypt, he tried to charter a taxi and was told that it would cost £100 a day to be ferried around. Spotting a sand-coloured Mini, Sayle asked the owner what it would cost to buy and was told £600.

"The war is bound to last a lot more than six days, so I will save The Sunday Times some money," Sayle announced and opened his wallet. It was, of course, the Six Day War and the paper just about broke even on his attempt at thrift, but at least the expenses department agreed to let him keep the car.

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