The comfort of strangers – and friends

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

“And I’ll drink and dance with one hand free
Let the world back into me
And oh I’ll be a sight to see
Back in the high life again”

– Warren Zevon, Back in the High Life Again

In what seems the blink of an eye, the Royal Marsden Hospital in London has replaced Heathrow Airport as my second home. Oh what I would give to swap those venues and rewind time. Suddenly all those Heathrow security queues carry a curiously nostalgic attraction.

Instead, my new, temporary, world is one of hospital wards, blood tests and seemingly endless medical procedures. On Tuesday I will begin a near seven-month treatment and surgery programme to rid myself of this disease that has gatecrashed my body.

But all things in life have their reasons and their positives. At Heathrow I would have hardly struck up a conversation with a 59 year-old breast cancer patient called Madeleine, whose prognosis was far darker than mine but who, instead of dwelling on negative thoughts, beguiled me with the merits of listening to American jazz singer Madeleine Peyroux, of enjoying each and every day to its fullest, and who concluded our chat with a question that was more of an observation – “Isn’t life beautiful?”

Indeed it is. As I sat on a bench opposite the Royal Marsden last Thursday between blood tests reading the great American author Richard Ford, I looked up as a bus passed me. For no reason at all it seemed, a delicately pretty young woman looked out at me and smiled the most radiant of smiles. I’ll never know why but it was a lovely, spontaneous moment. Life is so implicitly simple yet we spend most of our time complicating it.

Now that my tests are over, and the treatment about to begin, it’s time to get back down to a few hours work a day. I’m currently strong in the mornings while delighting in the joys of a siesta every afternoon. It was a long-time mentor, Brian Collie, Chairman of McArthurGlen Luxury Retail (and former BAA Group Retail Director), who kicked my butt (not for the first time in life it must be said) into getting my writing back into gear.

“You love it, you’re great at it and we all want to read what you think,” wrote Brian, and knowing his Scottish candour he wasn’t just saying it to cheer me up. Anyway, he’s right, I do love it and it is my own personal therapy. Writing was always my great love, and it’s not time to stop just yet, though the subject matter may occasionally take my readers down some unexpected paths, an indulgence I hope you’ll forgive in coming months.

Since I confirmed my illness via this Blog, the response from our industry has made me smile, cry and, above all, become stronger. All of the messages that I have received have offered great comfort, a word and a concept that is so fundamentally important, as it is in childhood, to anyone battling serious sickness.

In the past few days I have had people from the Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish (I feel as though Lois Pasternak, who so recently lost her husband Paul to this disease, is my sister) and Christian faiths all offering me their prayers. With powerful friends like that ‘upstairs’ how can I not beat this foe?

As I set off on the next stage of this unwelcome yet strangely life-enhancing journey, it’s time to sit back occasionally and enjoy the softer pleasures of life – family, garden, walking, reading and listening to everything from Warren Zevon and Mark Knopfler to Mozart. So much slips by so quickly in life. Sometimes, however unexpected the motivation, you have to reclaim it.

Another pleasure, a glass or two of good Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, is relaxing me in the evening. I am dreading the chemotherapy will affect my taste buds and put me off wine – if it does I plan to switch bags and take Cloudy Bay intravenously, which may not cure me but sure as hell will cheer me up.

Thank you for all the correspondence, prayers and… comfort, much of it from people who I thought barely knew me. I have often witnessed this industry’s humanity when I have been involved in rallying people around causes. To be the recipient of it is indescribably enriching.

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  • Martin, I read the GMR/Delhi story today;being involved in GMR’s tender was the first piece of work I did as a self-employed consultant which I did for number of years. I always remember how important your support was in those early days. Writing articles and allowing me to speak at MEDFA not only gave me self-belief but business too. And you hardly knew me! Now you’re telling us that you’re getting words of support from peolple who hardly know you.

    Well people DO know you…In the DF industry and I’m sure further afield too…..

    All the best and I hope it’s not too long until you’re in Marlborough and enjoying it’s pleasures at first hand

  • Martin, Mandy directed me to your blog. A wonderful, moving piece. All your friends here have you in thir thoughts and prayers. As I have learned from you the Florida Fox does not give uo up. Keep up with the wine and we will find something stronger when you come to Orlando on the Friday. Actually, hope to see you in Cannes. May God bless you. You have earned it.

  • Now I would like to thank Mr. Brian Collie for making you to write henceforth. I am happy that my Internet Explorer icon of TMB will always show dark everyday I login, for I am sure there would be your thoughts on the Industry for us to read!

    Keep writing and yes, Keep Smiling. Thou shall pass by, soon.

    Cheers to your Sauvignon!