On The Eye our Editor Phil Parry has described how he was helped to break into the South Wales Echo office car when he was a cub reporter, recalled his early career as a journalist, the importance of experience in the job, making clear that ‘calls’ to emergency services and court cases are central to any media operation.
He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is when trainee reporters had to live in squalid flats, the importance of expenses, and about some of those he has interviewed as well as one of his most important stories on the now-defunct 53 year-old BBC Wales TV Current Affairs series, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his career really took off.
Phil has also explained the importance of actually speaking to people, the virtue of speed as well as accuracy, why knowledge of ‘history’ is vital, and how certain material was removed from TV Current Affairs programmes when secret cameras had to be used.
Here he laments the slow response of the National Health Service in treating the disabling condition which afflicts him.
In many ways I am lucky.
I have a disease called Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP) – this is a progressive condition which you have from birth.
I walk with a stick now and in a few years I will probably be in a wheelchair. One of those electric ones seems rather attractive!
As my consultant explained it, HSP is basically a corrosion of the nerves which tell your legs to do what you want them to do. In years to come only stem cell research MAY find a solution, but in the meantime it becomes slightly worse every day. It is a rare disease, but mainly because it is often misdiagnosed as rheumatism. Sometimes there is not even a handrail on stairs, let alone a lift, and then I am completely knackered.
But there is no pain and a lot of people are far worse off – hence this is why I think I am actually extremely fortunate.
I can still do my job as a trouble-making journalist!
The trick with any disability (and I am not saying I possess it) is NOT to compare yourself with the way you once were, because that way lies madness, but to compare yourself with other people. Then you realise that others are in far worse situations.
The main problem is that your self-image is eroded.
I used to think I was a tireless, go-getting reporter, yet now I realise I am just a disabled bloke with a stick!
I long ago stopped looking at the reflection in shop windows because of this man hobbling around who was staring back at me!
But recently I became worried about what seemed to me to be the fast progress of the disease.
When I was diagnosed I asked the consultant how quickly I should expect to be properly immobile and I was told to look at my parents, in this case my mother.
Yet the progress seems to be far quicker than in her case.
I had worked out that at my wedding in 1993 she was not using a stick and she was then aged 68.
I am 57.
I thought I had better get this speed checked out and earlier this summer, through my GP, I asked for a referral to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. I have heard nothing and rang to chase it up.
Had they forgotten? Had it in some way fallen through the cracks in the system?
I was eventually put through to the ‘appointments line’ and after my records were checked, I was told they had in fact received the referral on… August 1.
But nothing had been done about it because officials hadn’t heard back from the consultant to ‘prioritise’ my case.
Phil Parry’s memories of his extraordinary 35-year award-winning career in journalism as he was gripped by HSP, have been released in a major new book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!