My haven: Justin Webb presenter of Radio 4’s Today programme, 51, unwinds in the study of his south London home
13:54 GMT, 15 September 2012
My haven: Justin Webb presenter of Radio 4's Today programme, 51, unwinds in the study of his south London home
A FUR PRICE
When I started in journalism in the 80s Russia was the big story, and I
landed a posting in Moscow. I initially went thinking, as many people do, ‘I won’t need a hat.’ But it’s staggeringly cold in the winter, and one freezing day I found myself hatless on Leningrad station. Back then, anything was available if you had a few dollars, so I asked a vendor if he could sell me a fur hat. He sold me the one he was wearing for ten bucks!
Shortly after he became President I got to interview Barack Obama. He was hugely charismatic – if a little cool – and we started talking about our children. Suddenly he asked if I’d like him to write a note for mine – twins Sam and Martha, 12, and Clara, eight. I found a scrap of paper and he wrote, ‘To Martha, Sam and Clara, Dream big dreams! Barack Obama.’ Now they sign off all their thank-you letters with ‘Dream, big dreams’.
HERE'S THE NEWS
My mother pointed to a man on the TV when I was about five and said, ‘He’s your father’. It was Peter Woods, the newsreader, but I was too young to understand. I kept it to myself for 45 years until 2011, when I finally revealed the truth. They’d had an affair when they were young and kept it secret. Peter only saw me once, when I was six months old, although the fact I went into the media is telling: it perhaps shows the importance of genes.
A MAN’S GAME
To me, rugby is the finest game ever invented. I hope it supplants football as the national sport one day, because not only is it more complex and interesting, it involves a great degree of bravery too. There’s a feel of good honest endeavour about rugby – players aren’t going out to fake injuries, as they so often are in modern football. I haven’t played since school, but I’ll always be a huge fan of Bath where I grew up.
MY BRAVE BOY
My son Sam has type 1 diabetes mellitus and has to carry this insulin pen around with him all the time. He needs insulin whenever he eats – although thankfully he has a pump attached to him that’s programmed to deliver him a ‘shot’ so many times a day. But he still has to stick a needle in from time to time – which is tough for a child. Right up until the 1920s, this condition killed everyone who had it.
A LIFE SAVER
Kate Adie told me to get a Swiss Army knife before going to cover the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 90s. I’d just checked into a hotel in Bosnia when there was this almighty thump. A mortar shell had landed on my balcony and sprayed it with bits of jagged shrapnel that would have ripped me to shreds if I’d been there. We had to shelter in the hotel basement and I used this knife to open tins of food – there was nothing else to eat.