Thursday was an interesting day. I had my 3 month review with my lovely oncologist following the end of my chemotherapy treatment. Apart from the drugs causing me to lose sensitivity in my fingers and toes (which causes them to feel cold all the time), I’ve been feeling great for a while now but I still went to the consultation feeling slightly apprehensive of course. Anyway the outcome of all the recent tests I’ve undertaken is that there’s no significant sign of the cancer having returned. Woo hoo. So I’ve been given a 3 month pass before I start the round of tests and consultation again. My wife C and I were very happy to tell our daughters the news this time as you can imagine.
However it was with some sadness that I later caught the news on the radio that my old friend Professor Colin Pillinger had died. I wrote about my relationship with the great space scientist back in 2007 ( https://pastapaulie.wordpress.com/2007/12/19/rocket-man/ ) when we were approached at BT to sponsor the Beagle 2 mission to Mars. We didn’t do it in the end though we did host the launch of the mission at the BT Centre which was a tremendous evening. I didn’t know it at the time but Colin captured the outcome of our various meetings in his diary which he later developed into an intriguing book entitled My Life on Mars; The Beagle 2 Diaries. Colin was very open and honest about his dealings with everybody on the project and he doesn’t spare his criticisms. I was the guy who ultimately had to go and see him to deliver the news that I hadn’t been able to convince enough of the key people at BT to support the project and in the end it was the right decision for the company as the mission ultimately failed. But the fact was that Colin through his sheer passion and drive got that Mars lander built and delivered to a distant planet and in doing so inspired a generation to get hooked on space technology. The mission may have failed but he became a national hero and I so admired him for believing that anything was possible.
I skimmed through his book again on Thursday to remind myself of our meetings and various chats. I didn’t come out of it terribly well being the bad news guy but there was one bit where he wrote about my initial visit to the Open University where he was Prof of Planetary Sciences and where the Beagle 2 lander was being built. I arrived the day that Colin had been told to cancel the project; he’d ignored the instruction but was livid. He wrote ‘Paul had taken one look at my face and said ‘I don’t think this is a good time to be here’. I had apologised and said ‘You’re right; I wouldn’t do Beagle 2 justice right now’. I liked Paul; he was easy-going and didn’t wear a suit and …(he) tactfully went home… Far from being put off by our encounter Paul was full of ideas about how BT might exploit a relationship with Beagle 2′ .
I was flattered by his words and especially by the kind inscription he wrote to me when I received his signed copy of the book. I treasure it and the memory of some time spent in his company. He was quite a guy.