Sunday, 6 October 2013


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Have you ever met a person whose life story seemed too big to conceive, whose presence seemed divine, almost holy, like a piece of history that accidentally found itself in your bare hands for a little while?

Her name was Alice, and she was my piece of history on a Wednesday afternoon in the winter of 2010. She was meant to be merely a University project, part of my ‘Interview Skills’ module, aimed to make me a better journalist. I never got to be a journalist, but I will not forget my teacher, who foolishly yet truly believed I could be one, constantly encouraging me to push my own limits and reach out farther.

My moment with Alice
I saw her one night on the Russell Howard’s Good News show, and immediately knew I had to meet her. I had no clue as to how to contact her, and so I did what every good journalism student does: research. I must have spent about a week Googling and Facebooking and Twittering until I finally got her phone number from a previous interviewer. And when I called, I shivered. And when she told me to ‘come tomorrow, two o’clock’ and put down the phone, I cried like a little girl.

I went up to North London and had my amateur interview with a professional pianist. She had just had her 107th birthday, and her flat was filled with colourful flowers. She was warm, sharp, human, but mostly – happy. I asked her about her life, and she asked me about mine. I promised I would visit.

Alice and me in 2010
It has been nearly 3 years now, and I haven’t been back. I know, it sounds all too much like Mitch Albom’s confession in Tuesdays with Morrie, right before he realises his life isn’t really going the way he thought it was, and decides to spend less time working and more time with the people he cares about. Well, that might be relevant, but allow me to make a conscious decision to postpone dealing with this urgent matter for later.

I was recently emailed by a certain Dave N, notifying me of the upcoming documentary The Lady in Number 6, which has apparently qualified to receive a nomination for the Academy Awards. ‘As part of our appreciation for Alice as a person and as a sense of inspiration,’ he wrote, ‘the producers have started the "Alice Challenge." The goal is to give Alice 1,000,000 birthday wishes for her 110th birthday, and send an amazing message to a wonderful individual.”

I know I’m no saint, and re-posting about my experience would probably not clear my conscience or make me feel like a better person. But I at least owe this to you, whoever you may be, to share that bit of exciting news, hoping to take on the Russell Howard role rather than Mitch Albom’s, and inspire you to your own encounter with a piece of history, who, well, might make you cry like a little girl too.

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