Dame Jenni Murray on fat shaming, cancer and a call to the Samaritans
February 5, 2021. Series 3. Episode 19
The renowned broadcaster and writer Dame Jenni Murray is my guest for Episode 19. For 33 years the brilliant and calm voice of Woman’s Hour, Jenni talks powerfully about the myriad private crises she has faced. Her difficult relationship with her mother led to a lifelong battle with obesity, low self-esteem and, at her most desperate, a call to the Samaritans. In 2006 – the same week that she lost her mother, Jenni was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer resulting in a mastectomy. Jenni, who underwent drastic surgery in 2015 to lose weight, speaks candidly about these and other challenges in her life. And how she got through them and her brilliant book Fat Cow, Fat Chance. Jenni is patron of British research charity Breast Cancer Campaign and the Family Planning Association, Vice president of Parkinson’s UK and a supporter of Humanists UK.
Jenni’s Crisis Cures:
1. Dogs – I could never be without a dog. I love seeing them run around the park enjoying themselves. Then we cuddle up in front of the TV in the evening watching ‘Call My Agent’. I adore them.
2. Reading crime novels – I love reading. Val McDermid & Sarah Paretsky are my two favourites. Sarah didn’t write for a while but now she’s back and Val always has something that keeps you up till 3am because you can’t put it down.
3. New Forest Ice-cream. We often go to Lymington and there’s an ice-cream shop where you can get a fancy cone with two scoops – I always have one vanilla and the other ginger, and that can cheer me up anytime!
Breast Cancer Now : https://secure.breastcancernow.org/#/
Jenni’s book: https://amzn.to/3ePb9Uh
To the millions who tuned into Jenni Murray on Woman’s Hour – she was the consummate professional, completely composed broadcaster. That she was so down at one point that the only way forward for her was to phone the Samaritans was an astonishing and poignant revelation and speaks, I hope, to one of the most resonant lessons from these conversations. That crisis really doesn’t care who you are. Jenni’s frank assessment of her near life-long struggle with obesity alongside the cruel and counter-productive fat-shaming she received – both from strangers and most shockingly from her own mother, was also compelling. Her ability to recognise its impact on her life and yet find forgiveness, demonstrates her extraordinary resilience. Finally, Jenni’s coping mechanism throughout her crises struck a chord with me. That through it all, keeping busy, taking charge of the practical issues ahead, was her key device to avoid the darkness. Another example of that simple idea – focus on the things you can affect – however small and it will ease the anxiety caused by those things that you can’t change.
Stream/Buy ‘Allies’ by Some Velvet Morning: https://ampl.ink/qp6bm
Some Velvet Morning Website: www.somevelvetmorning.co.uk
Host – Andy Coulson
Producer – Louise Difford
00:00:00.00 Intro music
00:00:19.06 Andy Coulson:
Hello and welcome to series three of Crisis What Crisis? a podcast designed to be a useful field guide as we all try to navigate and continue to come to terms with a dramatically changed world. Whether personal, professional or both, crisis is without doubt, the new shared experience. I’m Andy Coulson, a former newspaper editor, Downing Street Director of Communications and one time inmate of HMP Belmarsh. For the last five years I’ve put all of my experience, the good and the bad, to use as a strategic advisor to business leaders and I can tell you that the bad has been just as useful as the good. And that got me thinking as the first lockdown began that there are plenty of great podcasts out there where you can hear stories of success, there are far fewer where you can benefit from the experience of those whose lives have properly unravelled.
00:01:05.07 Andy Coulson:
So, in Crisis What Crisis? I talk to the embattled, shamed, courageous, ruined, damaged, resilient, unlucky and lucky survivors of crisis. Some names will be familiar, some less so, our guests share their experiences though, with honestly, often with humour, but always in the hope that they might be useful to anyone facing down their own demons and challenges. Put simply, these are crisis conversations worth sharing. Stay tuned at the end of the episode when I’ll give my thoughts and takeaways, the lessons, if you like, for when life unravels and if you enjoy the podcast please do subscribe and give us a rating and a review, it really helps make sure these stories reach an even wider audience of people who may find them useful and that, in the end, is what it’s all about.
00:01:52.18 Andy Coulson:
Crisis What Crisis? is generously supported by Myndstream, a brilliant company who harness the power of music for personal wellbeing. Whether it be music for meditation, to help focus, sleep, stress relief, yoga and fitness, rejuvenation, even grief and loss, Myndstream is there to improve human performance. I’ve tried it, it works, and I’d recommend having a listen to the Myndstream catalogue yourself. Just search Myndstream, that’s mind with a Y, on Spotify. Thanks again for joining me.
00:02:26.19 Andy Coulson:
Our guest today is the broadcaster and writer, Dame Jenni Murray, one of Britain’s best known and most respected voices. From 1987 until last year she was, of course, the presenter of Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour. Jenni is also the successful author of eight books including her latest, a provocatively titled, Fat Cow, Fat Chance. On this podcast we’ve had conversations about a wide range of personal crises, it’s a privilege to have Jenni with us today to talk about the subject of that book, a near life-long challenge that millions in this country and across the world are facing eery day, the crisis of obesity.
00:03:05.21 Andy Coulson:
Jenni’s book is a frank, detailed and fascinating personal account of her struggle with her weight and its impact on her health, mental and physical. A journey that led her, in 2016, to undergo radical but successful metabolic surgery. To give a clue to Jenni’s resilience however, it’s important to know that a decade earlier she faced down the terror of breast cancer, all whilst keeping a busy family afloat and the nation entertained and informed on Woman’s Hour. Jenni’s book is also a powerful examination of why and how obesity can take hold and why society and our governments have struggled so badly to understand and reduce the damage it causes. Dame Jenni Murray, thank you for joining us today on Crisis What Crisis?
00:03:50.00 Jenni Murray:
00:03:50.24 Andy Coulson:
It’s great to have you here. Jenni, we’re talking as the third lockdown continues. Your book, I think, was written in those glorious sunlight pre-Covid days that we all now barely remember. I wonder how you think the pandemic will impact the debate around obesity? Do you think that that, that what we’ve all been through and going through as a society, will somehow affect, positively one hopes, government attitudes towards obesity? Will people look at it in a different way? Or are you worried about that?
00:04:24.13 Jenni Murray:
We got a slight hint that Boris Johnson had become very aware of it seven or eight months ago. He lost weight himself, to some degree, he could do with losing a bit more frankly. But there are no really positive moves towards financing helping people to do it. Because I know, you know my book is called Fat Cow Fat Chance, people say, ‘oh that’s a very radical title’, yeah, it is. It’s called Fat Cow because I have spent so many times walking through the park and having young blokes, it’s always blokes, women don’t do it to each other, although I’m sure they do behind their backs, and people would walk past me and say, ‘oh god, fat cow, wouldn’t go there, would you?’ And it’s not obesity is not on the hate crime list.
00:05:28.02 Jenni Murray:
That struck me for the first time when I was at a conference about obesity and a young doctor, a metabolic surgeon, I call them metabolic not bariatric because it’s a much more appropriate term, stood up and said, ‘Isn’t it interesting that hate crimes includes disability, race, gender, sexuality…’ and listed all the things off and said to the audience, ‘…what’s not on that list?’ And the whole audience went ‘Oh my goodness, obesity.’ So it’s not illegal to call somebody a fat cow in the street and I do think maybe it should be because you know calling people out for being obese doesn’t make them get thinner. Losing weight is the most difficult thing imaginable. And I think the first thing that governments have to do is acknowledge how difficult it is to lose it and to keep it off. And for me, in the end, surgery was the only option. And I had to pay for it myself because getting one of these operations on the National Health Service is really, really hard.
00:06:52.03 Andy Coulson:
Yeah, the process is very difficult, I’m keen to talk about that in a bit more detail. In your book, in fact, you quote, on this issue of fat shaming, you quote James Corden and it’s a quote I hadn’t seen and I think he puts it brilliantly when he says, ’It’s proven that fat shaming only does one thing, it makes people feel ashamed. And shame leads to depression, anxiety and self-destructive behaviour. Self-destructive behaviour like overeating.’ And that kind of, that’s unarguable really, you know and makes the case very clearly.
00:07:20.04 Jenni Murray:
Exactly so that’s one of the things that I feel really strongly about. And that we do now have treatments that are helpful. I weighed twenty-four stone when I went for my surgery. I now weigh about thirteen and a half. And I rather like a little bit of plumptitude, as I call it, I don’t want to get too skinny because at my age, I’m seventy now, if I lost any more weight my face would crumple and I don’t want that to happen. So I’m trying to keep a balance there.
00:07:58.10 Jenni Murray:
But the thing about the surgery, I don’t think anybody’s really quite realised how much money, in the long term, it would save the national health service because real obesity leads to real ill health. As you say it makes you more likely to die if you get this horrible virus but other than that it causes type two diabetes, it causes lack of mobility, all kinds of health problems which then cost the NHS in the long term. So you might have to spend, I mean, my operation cost £10,000, which I paid for myself because my parents had left me a little bit of money when they died, and frankly I thought my mother would be terribly pleased to know that I had spent part of my inheritance on that…
00:08:51.20 Andy Coulson:
I’m keen, I’m very keen to talk about that, you go into that in some detail in the book and it’s a remarkable story. And actually Jenni, do you mind if we start the story there, in a way? Because what you just alluded to in terms of your relationship with your mother. In your characteristically no-fuss style, your story is incredibly moving but it’s at times also very sad, I found it very sad. You explain that the reasons that led you to have significant weight problems are multi-faceted, you know, as they are for so many. There’s no one reason for most people. You know, it’s not just a case of eating too much and moving too little as you put it, although you accept that was a factor. But it was far more complex than that and indeed one of the causes you trace back to your relationship with your mum, who you love dearly but who, by your own account, also treated you at times, pretty appallingly. She, the phrase didn’t exist at that time, but she fat shamed you. I mean, how do you reflect on that now, Jenni, can I ask?
00:10:10.24 Jenni Murray:
You know I was born in 1950, immediately post-war when the British people had probably had the best diet ever because they couldn’t get any of the things that would cause us problems later in life. Sugar was difficult to get hold of, butter was difficult to get hold of. So suddenly my mother and my grandmother, when I was born, in the post-war period were finding they could make wonderful cakes, wonderful puddings, custard, treacle sponge was a family favourite. And I, as a little girl, would sit down at the lunch table or the dinner table and a huge plate of the most wonderful food, my grandmother used to call it northern peasant food, you know, she made wonderful stews and Yorkshire puddings and then these sweet puddings. And I would get through half of it and say, ‘I can’t eat anymore, I’m really not hungry now’. And she would in high dudgeon’s say, ‘Oh come on, I spent all morning cooking that for you, I do these meals because they’re lovely and I really love cooking for you and I…’
00:11:34.14 Andy Coulson:
Clear your plate, yeah.
00:11:36.08 Jenni Murray:
‘Clear your plate and if you don’t clear your plate it will be there at tea time and you will finish it then.’ So I think so many of us may well have been made to be fat because our mothers put so much energy into feeding us well and favourably and our appetites never learned how to be controlled. You know Susie Orbach, who I’ve known for a very long time said in her book, Fat is a Feminist Issue, listen to your appetite and when it tells you it’s full, stop. And I’ve said to her so often over the years, you know unfortunately this is the one thing on which I appear to be profoundly deaf. I can’t hear my appetite telling me to stop. And I think it’s something parents have to learn that you know when your kids say they’re not hungry anymore, they’ve had enough, waste it or don’t give them so much in the first place. You know I now…
00:12:49.16 Andy Coulson:
It wasn’t just that sort of slightly naive generational kind of, you know, enthusiasm to see a clean plate and a kind of misguided belief that that somehow was good for you. It went further than that didn’t it, Jenni? And you detail it in the book, your mother also, clearly, when you put some weight on when you went to university she saw you for the first time, as I remember from the book she picked you up from university with your father, and is sort of shocked by the weight that you’ve put on. But you’re only eleven stone, I think.
00:13:25.12 Jenni Murray:
I’d gone from nine and a half to eleven stone.
00:13:28.03 Andy Coulson:
So you’d put on…
00:13:29.12 Jenni Murray:
An absolutely typical among university people, you know you leave home, you eat in the canteen. We ate lots of chips in the university canteen. We’d make lots of toast, we started drinking alcohol which we had never done before and it and I’m sure that happens even now. So university students tend to put on weight when they first start. My parents had been working abroad, my father was an engineer. They decided to drive back across Europe when his contract finished and take the boat from Rotterdam to Hull which is where I was at university.
00:14:12.18 Jenni Murray:
So I’m standing there with my long hair and my weight gain and they drove straight past me. And I was waving like crazy and eventually my dad stopped. He leapt out of the car, threw his arms around me, so pleased to see me. And my mother didn’t get out of the car, she just sat there. So I got in the back and she turned round and said, ‘Good lord what’s happened to you, you look like a baby elephant.’ And she just went on and on and on and on about it. Wasn’t interested in going to see where I was living, wasn’t interested in going to see where I was studying. Just went on and on about the fact that I was fat and she didn’t want a daughter that looked like that. And we had such a row that eventually I got out the car and off they drove. And then later that night I had a phone call telling me that my father had been so upset at the row that we’d had that he’d had a minor crash in Selby and he’d run into the back of somebody.
00:15:21.22 Andy Coulson:
The inference being that that was all your fault?
00:15:25.19 Jenni Murray:
From my mother presumed that it was all my fault, yes. Of course it was entirely her fault. And as a result of that awful row, and it really was awful, I went to the health centre at the university and saw a young doctor and said, ‘Look I’ve got to use weight, you’ve got to help me do something’ and he said, ‘Yeah, fine’ and he gave me some tablets and off I went. I’d read about a diet in one of the women’s magazines which recommended that a quick and easy way to lose weight was to eat nothing but boiled eggs and tomatoes. So I went on the boiled egg and tomato diet, to this day I could not eat anything on a plate that had a boiled egg and a tomato on it. I could eat a boiled egg, I can eat a tomato but not together.
00:16:20.09 Jenni Murray:
And I took the tablets that he’d given me. And I went from, if I remember rightly, eleven to seven stone, which was a massive weight loss. And my tutor who was lovely, said to me one day, ‘Jenni we’ve got to talk about what’s going on, you seem to be very upset a lot of the time, your work is not as good as it was when you first came here. And you’ve lost a tremendous amount of weight, what are you on?’ And I was deeply offended and said, ’On? I’m not on anything, I don’t do drugs.’ And he said, ‘Look there’s something going on.’ I said, ‘Well the only thing I’ve got is these tablets that the doctor gave me.’ I took them out of my bag because I had them with me all the time and showed him and he said, ‘Oh good grief, they are black bombers.’ I went ‘They’re what?’
00:17:10.19 Andy Coulson:
00:17:14.08 Jenni Murray:
They were really powerful amphetamines. No wonder I was going quietly round the bend.
00:17:19.24 Andy Coulson:
Just astonishing that even then, really, that a university doctor, a doctor who’s in charge of young people, was so happily, willingly, enthusiastically prescribing amphetamines.
00:17:37.04 Jenni Murray:
Yeah and I thought it great because you know I was completely ignorant about drugs, I was what, eighteen, nineteen.
00:17:44.07 Andy Coulson:
Yeah, just astonishing.
00:17:45.07 Jenni Murray:
Anyway the weight loss had happened, they actually admitted me into the health centre, I was there for two weeks because they said, ‘You know you’re borderline anorexic we’ve got to do something about helping you to start eating again’ which they did and then John said, ‘Look I think you ought to go to your mother…’ ‘No, that’s gonna be awful I’ll stay here and I’ll do the summer exams and then I will go home for summer.’ And of course I walk through my mother’s door, and this happened throughout my life, I’ve never walked through my mother’s door without her saying ‘Oh my god, you’ve put on weight’, or ‘Oh love you’ve lost so much weight, we’ve got to feed you up.’
00:18:32.23 Andy Coulson:
First the first thing that would be said?
00:18:34.23 Jenni Murray:
The first thing that would be said, always. And I slowly started to put weight on again. And stuck, for a long time, around what was obviously the best weight for me which is nine and a half, nine stone.
00:18:52.23 Andy Coulson:
Yeah, we often talk on this podcast, Jenni, about how the roots of resilience can be traced back to your childhood. But obviously, so can the roots of a crisis that can emerge or not emerge fully until well into your adulthood, which is essentially what happened for you. It took a while, didn’t it, to join the dots between those experiences, as a younger woman and with your mother, to where you were in the middle of your life, if you like.
00:19:23.12 Jenni Murray:
You just don’t want to address the fact that your relationship with your mother is really, really difficult and complicated. You know, I was her only child, she had a terrible time giving birth to me, really terrible time. 1950, new NHS maternity hospital, which was a very forbidding place. She was on her own for twenty-four hours with her legs strapped up and the whole thing. Not allowed to walk about at all. And I was apparently on the point of expiry when a consultant came on duty, went into the delivery room where she was expiring too and said ‘Good god, we’ve got to get this baby out’ and dragged me out with forceps.
00:20:30.22 Andy Coulson:
00:20:31.02 Jenni Murray:
For which I had headaches for a long time.
00:20:34.12 Andy Coulson:
Your life literally started in crisis.
00:20:37.17 Jenni Murray:
Yeah, absolutely. And I used to get terrible stress headaches. I actually went to a chiropractor at one stage because I had a bad back and she said, ‘Oh I do cranial osteopathy as well. Are you interested in that?’ I said, ‘Yeah, go on, I’ll have a go’ because I said I had headaches a lot. And she didn’t even touch my head, I could just sense these hands moving over my head and she said, ‘Ooh, nasty forceps delivery.’ I said, ‘How do you know?’ And she said ‘Because the bones are slightly out of line.’ And she did something and I’ve never had those stress headaches since that day. So all these things, you don’t realise that your headaches started on the day you were born.
00:21:29.12 Andy Coulson:
Yeah, I don’t want to dwell on the subject of your mum, not least because it’s not the full story, obviously.
00:21:35.16 Jenni Murray:
She was very significant though.
00:21:36.21 Andy Coulson:
Well very significant and in fact, without wishing to date this podcast, in today’s in your column in The Mail today you talk about her in glowing terms because she was also clearly a very intelligent and an amazing woman in other ways. I mean, she was a civil servant and had to give that career up.
00:21:58.05 Jenni Murray:
She was a civil servant and I went to the same school that she did, the same grammar school that she had gone to. But she left school when she was sixteen, she wanted to join the WAF. My grandmother had her first nervous breakdown, as they called it, when my mother suggested joining the WAF and she joined the civil service instead. And when I went to the school there were teachers there who remembered teaching my mother who would actually call me Winifred sometimes, which was my mother’s name. And would all say ‘Oh it was such a shame when your mother left, she should have gone to university.’ And she should. But of course that meant her future was ended really by her shame, I think, at not being active, taking an active part in the war. So she missed so many opportunities. Decided I was going to be her only child, after she’d had that horrible time. She had wanted a boy actually, I was called David Robert until the day I came out.
00:23:07.06 Andy Coulson:
I was Andrea just so you know…
00:23:09.15 Jenni Murray:
Oh were you?
00:23:10.14 Andy Coulson:
We share that parental disappointment.
00:23:13.07 Jenni Murray:
So you, they wanted a girl?
00:23:16.09 Andy Coulson:
00:23:17.13 Jenni Murray:
But it meant that you know I now feel I have truly forgiven her for some of the terrible things she did. Because I did love her.
00:23:33.05 Andy Coulson:
Yes, that comes through in the book. I mean, it ends, I use the word sad, it’s poignant as well because you say that the last words, certainly in the last conversation you had, she made reference to your weight.
00:23:51.05 Jenni Murray:
She did. Of course she did. There she was suffering from the latter stages of Parkinson’s disease. For the last few months of her life she had to be cared for in a nursing home because dad just couldn’t cope anymore, although he spent every hour he could sitting by her bed, they adored each other, absolutely adored each other. And I went to see her and yes, she told me that it was about time, again, I tried to get rid of all that weight.
00:24:29.18 Andy Coulson:
But as you just mentioned you’ve found the roots of forgiveness on that. And that presumably was a very significant moment for you, I’m sure it wasn’t just one moment, but a significant process for you. When you stand back from that, we’ll describe it as a sort of long running crisis for you, this podcast is about trying to find those lessons, how did you get to forgiveness Jenni? What was the sort of process you went through to be able to get there?
00:25:06.20 Jenni Murray:
To get to forgiveness of my mother. I tried all kinds of things. I tried therapy, at which I was not very good. I went to a therapist and I would sit at one side of the room and she would sit at the other side of the room and encourage me to talk about the things that I was anxious about. My wight obviously, was at the top of that list. My mother was also at the top of the list. And I found my urge to perform and entertain was so great that I would just sit there trying to tell a funny story, things that had happened at work, people that I’d interviewed. And she would just sit there silently looking at me and after about two months, I thought this is completely pointless, I’m paying you fifty quid every time I come here to entertain you. And it’s not doing me any good at all.
00:26:13.18 Jenni Murray:
I can’t… you know people say you can talk easily to somebody you don’t know about the things that really distress you, I found that was really not the case. The only people I’ve ever been able to talk to are my friends, actually. You know, my husband knows about the problems that I’ve had, he was there by my side a lot of the time when these things were happening, but it was really talking to friends. And just thinking about it an awful lot. You know, going through all the ghastly times and then going through all the wonderful times when she’d been so supportive of, you know, I know it sounds a bit naff saying she sent me for election lessons. But she knew that if I carried on playing with the kids in the street, shouting, ‘Ah come on, let’s go, let’s get a skates out and go down street…’
00:27:19.17 Andy Coulson:
You were very unlikely to end up at the BBC.
00:27:22.12 Jenni Murray:
Very unlikely to end up at the BBC. So from being very small she sent me to, I prefer to call them speech and drama lessons. But she wanted me to be able to speak as rough as anything if I was there with other people who were speaking like that and we were just having a laugh, but if I was going to have to be interviewed for a job or to go to university, I needed to know how to speak properly. And that I am so grateful for because actually I loved it as well. You know I really adored doing music festivals where I’d learn poems and then bits of plays. And I had a wonderful teacher who would take us to the theatre when the National Theatre was touring in Sheffield or Leeds, she would take us to see things. And that inspired one of the great passions of my life, that I love going to the theatre now. I studied French and Drama at University and then found a way of combining my interest in journalism and writing and being extremely nosy with performing and radio and television were the way to do it.
00:28:36.18 Andy Coulson:
It comes through in the book that your love of food and the pleasure and comfort that you take from it was part of the problem for you. Obviously the psychological chain of events, we just touched on that in relation to your mum but there were others, I’m sure, as well, who were equally unfeeling in your life. But you know, you also believe that genetics has played its part and your lifestyle. In your forties your family moved to the Peak District and you’re living in London during the week presenting woman’s hour, writing articles, writing your books, a very successful but a very, very stressful life. How much of a factor was that element? Your professional life on the problems that you were having?
00:29:25.04 Jenni Murray:
Well happily I was on the radio by then, I had done television before, so nobody could see how fat I was getting. We decided to move north. We’d lived in London for a while as a family, my younger son was born in London. And then both my husband and I had had really good northern grammar school education. And we had a long discussion, what are we going to do about the boys? They’d had a very good primary school and we decided we wanted them to have a northern grammar school education. And Ed got into Manchester grammar school which necessitated moving north.
00:30:20.06 Jenni Murray:
So we moved to the Peak District and it meant I had to get on the train every Sunday night to come down to London. And it was just at the time British Rail quit and Virgin took over and I’d get the seven o’clock train in Macclesfield and arrive at Euston probably about three o’clock in the morning and then had to leave for work at six. So it was a really tough time. I had a flat which I rented in Camden, because we bought the house up north, we didn’t have enough money to buy a flat in London. So I rented the flat, which was a basement, a rather worn-down basement flat which I called Withering Depths.
00:31:13.17 Jenni Murray:
And I would go to work, due to work quite often have to go to the theatre and read books, you know, lots of research for the programme. And I would either go out to dinner with a friend, because obviously they were all occupied with their families and so they didn’t have a lot of time for going out with me. If I went out it was to see the theatre but it was for work, I’d read a book because it was for work and I didn’t cook properly. I would nip round to Marks & Spencer’s or Sainsbury’s which was just round the corner and chuck things in the microwave.
00:31:54.03 Jenni Murray:
And I, as an awful lot of us did actually, rather treated dry white wine as a non-alcoholic drink. And I didn’t do any exercise for a long time, and then I did. You know I’d get panicked about it and start doing yoga again and go for walks in Regent’s Park but the weight just mounted and mounted and I became really quite seriously depressed. To the degree that one evening I was in such a state I rang the Samaritans. Which you know sounds crazy really, I was not suicidal, there’s no question, I was just as low as can be.
00:32:46.17 Andy Coulson:
Can you remember what you, more specifically can you remember what it was causing you to feel like, to want to pick up the phone to the Samaritans? And that’s a significant moment for anyone at all, but it’s a significant moment for you in another regard. You are a well-known individual, you’re on the radio, you’re in people’s lives, you’re known, although you’re not on television, as you say, but that’s still a huge step to take.
00:33:23.13 Jenni Murray:
You know, when I said I was very bad at talking to the therapist, I was. Sitting in front of somebody, I couldn’t do it. But I was so low at that point, I knew I was truly obese and every diet I’d done I’d lost a load of weight and then your body reacts if you lose a lot of weight and the hormones start telling your brain, make her eat, make her eat, she’s starving, she’s starving, this is all part of the metabolic side of weight gain. And I just sat there in the flat with complete despair, I really just felt despairing.
00:34:17.13 Jenni Murray:
I was doing a job that on the whole I enjoyed, although it was quite pressured a lot of the time. I was missing my kids, missing my husband, couldn’t pick up the phone and talk to them. Didn’t want to pick up the phone and talk to my friend Sally, and I just thought I’ve got to talk to somebody about this, I’ve just got to hear a human voice and spill some of it out. And the only way I could think of to do that was to dial the Samaritans. And a young man answered the phone and I don’t know if he recognised my voice, I mean, I didn’t tell him who I was, or what I did, I just blurted out this whole thing of feeling, you know I was the breadwinner for my family, I had to stay away from them because the job demanded it and I was just feeling desperate. And he was so calm and so sweet, he just listened. He just said, ‘Just go on, tell me, talk about it.’ And I never did it again, never rang them again but it was a real help just to spill it all out.
00:35:50.06 Andy Coulson:
Yeah, it’s a wonderful organisation, isn’t it, I mean, for many reasons, but certainly for the in the way that you’ve described. But I mean, that was an incredibly brave thing for you to do.
00:36:01.23 Jenni Murray:
It didn’t feel… you know…
00:36:06.03 Andy Coulson:
It was actually, well you might argue that it’s a demonstration of, and I want to talk about this in a bit more detail because there’s more to your story, but it was a demonstration of your resilience wasn’t it, actually? It was a demonstration of your desperation but it was also a demonstration of your resilience because you had the bravery to pick up the phone.
00:36:30.14 Jenni Murray:
Yeah, I hadn’t thought of it in that sense because all I can remember is the desperation that I felt. Who can I talk to about this? How can I get this off my chest, that that bright woman who says, ‘good morning, hello, welcome to the programme’ and really interesting interviews… how can she say to somebody I feel desperate and I can’t see any way out of it because I have to keep working and I have to keep earning the money. I have to keep feeding and clothing my kids. You know all of that, I’m sure lots of people get into the same position. I did learn to be rather more sympathetic to men who have to be breadwinners, before than I’d ever been in the past I think. I’m sure my dad went through that a lot when he was working abroad and having g to leave his family. But there is a pattern there.
00:37:39.22 Andy Coulson:
Do you think there’s a difference? Have you noticed a difference in the way that men and women handle crisis?
00:37:51.12 Jenni Murray:
That’s a really interesting question.
00:37:56.09 Andy Coulson:
You’ve interviewed so many people who’ve been through crisis.
00:38:01.06 Jenni Murray:
00:38:02.06 Andy Coulson:
I suppose there’s probably a bias towards women in your interviewees, I don’t know, but have you noticed a difference in approach?
00:38:15.01 Jenni Murray:
I tell you something that I have noticed, I think my generation of men found it really, really difficult to handle a crisis by talking about it to try and resolve it. And I think my sons’ generation is completely different, they don’t have difficulty. I don’t think they have difficulty even talking to each other about it, which I think you know, has been long discouraged in boys and men. I think for a long time, it was considered unacceptable for a man to talk about his feelings. We always imagine guys going off to the pub, having a pint, talking about the football, talking about the rugby but not talking about their feelings or their emotions. And I think this younger generation of men is completely different and certainly do talk about anxieties and worries and they’re not ashamed to admit it. From what I can see they talk to each other about it as well was their girlfriends, their wives, their parents.
00:39:38.05 Andy Coulson:
So I want to talk more about your resilience. But to do so we need to get to 2006 and what you’ve described as the worst day of your life, Jenni. The day when you were told you had cancer. Immediately after, the same day, immediately after you’d learnt that your mum had passed away after the long struggle of Parkinson’s that you mentioned earlier. How on earth did you get through that day, Jenni?
00:40:14.23 Jenni Murray:
When I look back on that day I think somewhere deep inside me is a ‘well come on you’ve just got to get on with it’ which I suspect came from my mother, actually. You know, ‘alright, don’t fuss, you know, of course you can do this, you can cope with it, you can manage’. So I was in the car, I mean, I suspected it was breast cancer. I’d had the test, I was going to have the confirmation with my consultant in Manchester. My mother was in Barnsley on the other side of the Pennines and my phone rang. And it was the home in which my mother had died, it was the nursing sister there who said, ‘Look we’re very sorry to have to tell you your mother died this morning.’
00:41:11.17 Jenni Murray:
And we were literally in the car on the way to the hospital and I told David, my husband, who was obviously deeply shocked, although we were expecting it, we knew she was very, very, very ill. And he said, ‘Well, what shall we do?’ And I said, ‘Well we’ve got to go to the hospital and talk to the consultant and see what’s going on and then we’ll drive to Barnsley because my dad will need us.’ And I just went into completely practical mode. Went to the doctor, he said, ‘Yeah, sorry you’ll have to have a mastectomy. You know, it’s too big a lump to deal with it as a lumpectomy so it’s a mastectomy and we ought to get you in as quickly as possible.’ And it was just before Christmas as well so…
00:42:18.05 Andy Coulson:
I assume that there was adrenaline obviously kicking in and that sort of natural ‘right, sort of take charge’ mentality, all part of a coping mechanism, I suppose in its own way. But in the sort of days after and the weeks after, obviously you’re thrown straight into the process of now having had that diagnosis, you have your mastectomy as you say, you’re into chemotherapy, everything that goes with that. I’m just curious to know how, in and amongst all that, so much to take on Jenni, what was really going on in your head? How are you… obviously I’ve asked how you were getting through that day but how were you getting through the days, were there any sort of, strategy is the grand word to use, I suppose, but were there just things you were saying to yourself that kind of helped you, that helped you get through, that perhaps could be helpful for others?
00:43:22.02 Jenni Murray:
All I could think, throughout that whole period was you’ve just got to get through this. You’ve got teenage sons, you’ve got a father who is grieving desperately. It’s Christmas, your operation is going to be the day after Boxing Day. You can’t arrange your mother’s funeral until after that because funerals don’t happen over Christmas and you have to be at that funeral. So it was really just a whole series of practical things that just…
00:44:06.23 Andy Coulson:
You wrote and delivered the eulogy as well didn’t you?
00:44:09.13 Jenni Murray:
Yeah, there were things that just had to be done. My husband thought I was completely off my head. You know four, five days after I’d had a mastectomy, he came to the hospital, saw my consultant and said, ‘Will you please tell this woman she is completely mad to think of being driven over the Pennines to attend her mother’s funeral and do the eulogy.’ And he just looked at my consultant just looked at David and said, ‘Have you tried telling this woman to do something? Or not to do something? Because I wouldn’t even attempt it.’
00:44:53.21 Andy Coulson:
So let’s try and work out where all that was coming from then? Because as you said, a part of it is definitely from your mum. She was clearly a tough individual, as well, in her way. Any other kind of routes that you’ve been able to identify? Any other sort of paths that have kind of led to that kind of strength of mind?
00:45:18.15 Jenni Murray:
I think being an only child helps because so much of your life you just have to rely on yourself. You know, you learn how to occupy yourself, you learn how to make choices for yourself. Because there are no brothers and sisters to compare yourself with or…
00:45:49.01 Andy Coulson:
It’s a different commentary in your head isn’t it?
00:45:51.11 Jenni Murray:
Completely, are you an only child?
00:45:53.04 Andy Coulson:
I’m not, no, I’m one of six. I’ve got an entirely different commentary running in mine.
00:45:58.05 Jenni Murray:
My husband’s one of six as well. So yeah, I find it really interesting how different these things are. And I think always, I wanted, what I wanted more my life, more than anything else, was to impress my mother. I know I wanted her to be proud of me and I think what was going through my head during that whole time was, well thank god I was diagnosed with the breast cancer after she died. Because she had been terrified all of her adult life, all of her friends were, it was the one thing they put their hands over their mouths and ‘God she’s got…’ and they never used the words breast or cancer. And she was scared of it and if she’d known I had it she would have been horrified and terrified as well. And so I was relieved that she wasn’t going to know about it.
00:47:07.04 Jenni Murray:
And then I knew, I just had to be there for her at her funeral. I don’t believe in afterlife or any of that but, I had to be in St Thomas’ Church in Barnsley which was the church where they were married and I was christened and I had my first, not very successful marriage, and that was where her funeral was going to be and I had to be there. And I had to be I had to have written a really good eulogy and I had to deliver it in the way she would have expected me to deliver it.
00:47:50.09 Andy Coulson:
So there’s a practical thing, one might argue. So as tragic as that practicality was and as heart breaking as it was, you used it didn’t you? you kind of put it to work, you set it as a target for yourself and sort of marched towards it. Does that sort of resonate? Do you think that is one of the devices you were using? There’s the whole kind of one day at a time, obviously, that you were having to deal with because of your diagnosis, but I mean, did you set milestones for yourself to march towards as you were dealing with all this incoming?
00:48:26.23 Jenni Murray:
I don’t know that I work like that. I don’t know that I really think things through in that sort of way.
00:48:34.20 Andy Coulson:
It’s instinctive, yeah.
00:48:36.19 Jenni Murray:
I just do things instinctively. And people always say ‘Oh gosh how did you cope with the cancer and you must have fought it so hard.’ And I just say, ‘Actually no, you don’t fight cancer’, I hate that sort of battleground language that people use about cancer. You know if somebody tells you you’ve got cancer, it’s quite serious, you’re going to have to have a mastectomy, you’re going to have to have chemotherapy, you just deal with it. You just… am I usually practical in this? I don’t know. I just always say to myself, yeah, okay, the shit hits the fan, pardon my language, and you have no option than to deal with it, as calmly as you possibly can.
00:49:33.15 Andy Coulson:
Well you do have an option, and this is the point I suppose that I’m interested in, is that you do have a choice because you could have gone the other way.
00:49:44.08 Jenni Murray:
What’s your alternative?
00:49:45.16 Andy Coulson:
Well your alternative is to fold in on yourself, right? Which is, I’m not saying it’s a positive choice but there is a choice and you didn’t do that. I mean, it comes again, later in your life, Jenni, because the chemotherapy causes avascular necrosis which effectively disintegrates your hips and you have a double hip replacement. Which is, in anyone’s life is again, a very traumatic, huge event. And you kind of deal with that in much the same way. It’s happened, I’ve got to get on with it. But another test of your resilience.
00:50:44.12 Jenni Murray:
Maybe I was instilled with this overwhelming sense of responsibility which I think my father had. You know, this okay I have to go away and do this contract for a year, so I have to be away from my family. Maybe I inherited that, I don’t know. But I, apart from that one time in Withering Depths when I rang the Samaritans, I don’t think I’ve ever come close to collapsing in on myself. You know things have upset me, you worry when you’re a freelance journalist, you worry are you going to be dumped, all of those things. Are you going to be able to get another job, are you going to be able to earn a living that people need? There are anxieties. But I’ve always felt that just get on with it. Just get on with it.
00:51:52.14 Andy Coulson:
Was perspective important to you? Did you draw perspective from others who were either going through similar things or worse things? Of course crisis is not a competition, as one of our guests said. Where would you get your perspective from? Because you were talking to people in crisis right, on the show? Because that’s the other element of all this, you’ve also, while all this is going on, you’re putting on your brave face would be an understatement, and getting on the radio every morning.
00:52:32.05 Jenni Murray:
Maybe I’m just not a very feeling person.
00:52:38.16 Andy Coulson:
I don’t think that’s the case.
00:52:40.10 Jenni Murray:
You know, I…
00:52:42.10 Andy Coulson:
I think you’ve just taken self-deprecation to another level.
00:52:46.18 Jenni Murray:
But there’s a professionalism involved in that. I mean, as I’ve written once, in fact this morning, I only ever once cried on the radio. Whereas people have told me some of the most distressing stories in the years that I’ve done it. And it was Deborah Spungen, it was Nancy Spungen’s mother. Nancy Spungen who of course went…
00:53:17.14 Andy Coulson:
The Sex Pistols, yeah.
00:53:19.24 Jenni Murray:
The Sex Pistols’ girlfriend, who her mother said nobody understood really, why she was so wild. But she had had oxygen deprivation at birth and had been completely wild and uncontrollable throughout her life. And I said to her mother who’d written a book about her daughter, ‘Why, when she kept asking you for money did you keep giving her money when you knew she was just going to go and spend it on heroin’ or whatever drugs she was taking at the time. And that woman just looked me in the eye and said, ‘She was my child and I loved her.’ And we both teared up. Okay, at the time, I had two young children and was very emotionally involved with them but that’s the only thing that ever touched me to tears. That idea that you would actually do anything for your child because you loved your child and children we just…
00:54:30.05 Andy Coulson:
And a sense of responsibility which you had, obviously, through your trials, is very motivating isn’t it?
00:54:39.22 Jenni Murray:
Yeah, it is.
00:54:41.12 Andy Coulson:
Can be put to…
00:54:41.16 Jenni Murray:
I mean, the hips was, it was horrible because I suddenly got this pain in my hips, not long after the chemotherapy had finished, and I rang my consultant who by then I knew quite well, and I said, ‘Look I’m absolutely in agony here. What do you think’s going on with my hips? I can barely walk, I’m on crutches.’ And he said, ‘Ah, avascular necrosis probably.’ And I said, ‘What?’ I’d never heard of avascular necrosis. And he said, ‘Look I’ll book you in with an orthopaedic surgeon. I’ll book you in and we’ll get it sorted.’ So I went to look up avascular necrosis and it said, alcoholics got avascular necrosis, divers who’d had the bends had avascular necrosis and it was a rarely discussed complication of chemotherapy. And that’s why obviously my breast cancer doctor spotted it straight away. But very few people are warned that that can be the case. Anyway I went to see this surgeon who happened to be the surgeon who’d operated on David Beckham’s foot.
00:56:23.07 Andy Coulson:
Right, metatarsal, yeah.
00:56:26.06 Jenni Murray:
When he was playing for Manchester United. And I thought, well he’s going to be good. And he said, ‘Look they are both going to need doing, we’ll do the left one which is slightly worse.’ And I said, ‘No, please can we do this in one operation.’ And he said, ‘Are you sure?’ And I said, ‘Well yeah, I just want it over with. Let’s get it over with.’ And I’d had some advice from a friend who’d also had it done in that way who said, ‘Look don’t have the anaesthetic, just get them to give you happy pills and then you’ll be awake throughout.’ So I suggested to my surgeon, could you not give me a full anaesthetic could you just give me these happy pills that will not send me off to sleep. And he said, ‘Under no circumstances,’ he said, ‘…if you think I’m going to replace two hips on a rather Jenni Murray, you are out of your mind, no way.’
00:57:28.00 Andy Coulson:
Jenni, let’s go forward to 2016. Your weight, for the whole range of reasons that we’ve been discussing, has hit, I think as you mentioned earlier, twenty-four stone.
00:57:40.12 Jenni Murray:
Yeah, it ranged between twenty-four and twenty-six because I was always on a diet.
00:57:45.01 Andy Coulson:
You’d been through so much but still your enthusiasm to find a solution was there, which was another demonstration of your resilience, if I can say. And then you meet, on Woman’s Hour, a young doctor called Billy White. Tell us what happens next.
00:58:05.17 Jenni Murray:
Well Billy was, we were talking about childhood obesity and he was operating on teenagers, doing what a lot of people call bariatric surgery, as I said, I call metabolic surgery, as does the man who did my operation. And after we’d finished the interview it was time to go into the serial. Which means about thirteen fourteen minutes where you can just chat. So I said to him, ‘Look you know, you’re doing these operations all the time, how do you think a middle aged, rather obese woman…’ I should have maybe said old because I was in my sixties, ‘…might get on with this?’ And he said, ‘Look why don’t we, after you’ve finished work, go and have a coffee and I’ll explain to you exactly what is available and how it works and suggest a surgeon who might do it for you.’
00:59:11.07 Jenni Murray:
And so I went and had coffee and he drew all the pictures of you know, you could have a sleeve, was the one he thought was the best way for me, where they remove a large part of your stomach. I think it’s 80% of the stomach you have to remove. But it’s better than a bypass, certainly from my surgeons’ perspective, because it doesn’t interrupt the natural flow of food through the body whereas the bypass does, actually bypass the stomach. This just removes part of it and one of the great things about it is it removes the part of the stomach that contains the ghrelins which are the hunger hormones. So you never feel quite as hungry as you did in the past. So that all sounded like a very good idea. I didn’t do anything about it immediately
01:00:12.20 Jenni Murray:
And then my son, Charlie, and I were walking in the park with my dogs, I have three little dogs. And we were sitting down on a, my mobility was awful, I was very slow, we were walking very slowly through the park we sat down on a bench. And a woman rode past us on a mobility scooter, who was even fatter than I was and had two little dogs attached to the handlebar of her cycle. And Charlie, who has never, none of the now men in my family, my two grown up sons and my husband, none of them have ever shamed me about my fat, but Charlie said, ‘You know mum, I am really quite worried about you. If you don’t do something about your weight and your mobility, that’s going to be you before long.’ And that was the shock that actually made me get on the phone call Professor Francesco Rubino at King’s Hospital in South London and said, would you see me? And I went to see him and we did the operation.
01:01:36.18 Andy Coulson:
Which was a success. You mentioned earlier that you paid for it privately. The process that leads to that is a very complicated one. I’m interested to ask questions about that in a moment. But you of course, again, I think as you mentioned briefly, you used the money from your mother’s inheritance, so an irony there.
01:01:58.18 Jenni Murray:
Isn’t it ridiculous that that is what went through my mind? Because originally Professor Rubino had talked about me doing it on the National Health Service because he thinks it’s really important that it should be available on the National Health and that people should understand how in the long term it can save so much money for the National Health, in that people don’t have to be treated for years to come for all the attendant illnesses that obesity can cause. And then I discovered that I would have to go on this programme that would take a year. I’d have to go to lots of lectures about how to lose weight and diet and exercise, like I didn’t know about all of that stuff.
01:02:42.15 Andy Coulson:
You’d lived all.
01:02:43.21 Jenni Murray:
All my life. And in the end I thought, come on, you know, you’re in your sixties you need to get it done as quickly as possible you can’t afford to wait for a year. My parents had not left me a lot of money, but they’d left me a bit of money. And the first thing that then went through my mind was ah, that would please my mother that I’m using some of my inheritance to get this weight off. And that’s what I did.
01:03:13.18 Andy Coulson:
Let’s talk about the, and you sort of examine this in great detail in the book, and it’s a complicated subject and it’s certainly not one that you can find a solution to in a short conversation, but how do we start to unpick all this do you think, Jenni? You know because I remember from my time in politics in Number 10, obesity would come up as an issue, with reasonable regularity. We did some decent work, I think, in terms of sugar in particular. And there are others outside of politics who’ve done amazing things, Jamie Oliver, one of them. But we still have this issue, don’t we because it is a political issue in a way. Because it brings into focus these issues of personal responsibility alongside the pressure on the NHS.
01:04:03.14 Andy Coulson:
So although it seems entirely logical that an operation, such as the one that you had, will ultimately save us money and be good for society, never mind the individuals involved as a collective, it’s got to be good for us for a whole bunch of reasons. But there are also those who say, well hang on a second it’s not just someone’s stomach or someone’s appetite that you’re bypassing, you’re bypassing personal responsibility as well when you give people that option. How do we start to make sense of all that? How do we get to a more productive place?
01:04:40.21 Jenni Murray:
We have to understand that it is really not as simple as how much you take in and how much you put out. You know quite often when I’m walking in the park, I’ve got three chihuahuas, right, and Butch, whose sitting by my feet is the old one. He’s fifteen and he’s the only boy. The other two are small and ridiculously small, they’re Frida and Madge. And people in the park always stop me and say ‘Aren’t they so cute, aren’t they lovely? And what are they?’ And I say, ‘Oh they’re Chihuahuas.’ ‘Oh, are they the same breed? Why is that one so much bigger than that one?’ And quite often I’m tempted to look at them and say ‘We’re the same breed aren’t we? Why are you so much bigger than I am?’ and they look at me and go… ah.
01:05:43.14 Jenni Murray:
You know that is such an important question, that our genetics play into this. All kinds of metabolic structures play into this. Giles Yeo, who works on the genetics has written the most wonderful book, which I have to say I did tell him I was mercilessly using as research in my own book, but we need to understand what is going on. We are all very, very different. I’ve got a friend who can sit at dinner and eat a vast quantity of chips, because we used to go to a restaurant that frankly made the best chips in London. And she would eat every bit as many as I did and then she’d have a pudding and she’d have lots of wine and she’s skinny as a rake.
01:06:47.16 Jenni Murray:
And I would look at that bowl of chips and put on half a stone. No question about it. I mean, obviously that’s a slight exaggeration but we are so different. First of all I think we have to learn how to feed our children. That’s the most important thing for me. Susie Orbach, all those years ago, said the most sensible thing imaginable, ‘Listen to your appetite and when you’re full stop eating.’ Because eating is a pleasure, it’s a social pleasure, it’s the way we all get together, it’s how we sit around with our families, with our friends and we eat and we talk and we enjoy the flavours. But we’ve become a society that obsesses over food now. You know you turn on the telly, Bake Off’s on.
01:07:44.17 Andy Coulson:
Food’s never been more famous than it is now.
01:07:47.18 Jenni Murray:
01:07:49.06 Andy Coulson:
In a way. But we’ve got this, you mention it in the book, that there’s also this contradiction. So Instagram, which is now the home of food photography, is also the home of the for those who are super fit which is our other obsession. We’ve got this constant kind of contradiction running haven’t we? I mean, that’s the issue, it’s incredibly difficult to unpick. But your argument, I think, is that in fact where we are perhaps a terribly sort of confused generation over this issue, actually the next generation, our kids, we can perhaps reset a bit.
01:08:37.04 Jenni Murray:
Yeah, I hope I’ve reset it with my kids actually. They love food, they’re wonderful cooks. They cook good food that’s fresh and they do have good appetites. But they’re not fat. I just thank god they didn’t inherit my genetics on obesity.
01:09:04.18 Andy Coulson:
Jenni, thank you so much for your time today. It is time, as we do with all our guests, to ask you for your crisis cures, if I may. So these are three things that sort of help you, three specific things, can’t be another person, but three specific things that have helped you get through in the difficult days. What would you start with?
01:09:30.08 Jenni Murray:
I could never be without a dog. I’m approaching crisis point with Butch, who’s fifteen now.
01:09:40.22 Andy Coulson:
Butch, of course, has been with your through some tough times.
01:09:44.11 Jenni Murray:
Yeah. He’s been my number one. The other two I love as well, and we go for a walk, it cheers us up. I love seeing them running around the park, enjoying themselves, and we sit at night just all cuddled up. There’s a cat as well so yes, when I’m here on my own, it’s me watching Call My Agent, at the moment, obsessively, and them all curled around me.
01:10:19.21 Andy Coulson:
I love this idea with dogs, I’m a dog lover too, and I love this idea with dogs that when you come down in the morning, what they’re actually doing is teaching you how to be resilient, I think. Because they just start everyday as if it’s a first and last they’re going to have.
01:10:37.00 Jenni Murray:
Yeah. ‘No, we’re not going to complain about anything, we love you without any doubts or questions.’
01:10:46.16 Andy Coulson:
And they live in the moment.
01:10:49.06 Jenni Murray:
Yeah, absolutely. I adore them and I’ve always had a dog, always. Reading a crime novel is the other thing.
01:11:01.05 Andy Coulson:
Do you have a favourite writer?
01:11:03.18 Jenni Murray:
Val McDermid, Sara Paretsky, they’re my two. Sara didn’t write for quite a while and she’s back now writing again. Her husband died not very long ago and she’s writing again. Val just writes and writes and writes and always have done things that will keep you up till three o’clock in the morning because you can’t put it down.
01:11:29.19 Jenni Murray:
And the other thing is, and this doesn’t sit well with my let’s try and do something about obesity question, we have this house on the south coast and there is a company called New Forest Ice Cream. And in Lymington, which the town we go to often, there is a little ice cream shop and you can go and get one of those cones, you know the fancy ones, not the old fashioned ones, the crunchy ones. And I have two blobs, one is vanilla and the other is ginger and that can cheer me up any time.
01:12:14.10 Andy Coulson:
Fantastic. Jenni, that’s perfect. Thank you so much for your time, thanks for being so frank with us and honest and prepared to discuss the detail of some of those difficult days in your life. It is, as I’ve said several times during our conversation, it is a story or resilience and thank you for sharing it with us, we really appreciate it.
01:12:45.21 Jenni Murray:
Pleasure. Thank you.
01:12:48.09 Andy Coulson:
Thanks very much.
01:12:49.16 Andy Coulson:
One of the main motivations behind these conversations, I hope, is the ability to break down some of the barriers around crisis. The incredible mix of guests that I’m lucky enough to have had on in itself makes an important point: that crisis really doesn’t care who you are. To the millions who tuned in to listen to Jenni Murray on Woman’s Hour she was the composed, professional, completely together broadcaster. That she was so down at one point that the only way forward for her was to phone the Samaritans was an astonishing and poignant revelation.
01:13:24.00 Andy Coulson:
Jenni’s frank assessment of her near life long struggle with obesity and the myriad causes shone a light on an issue of course, that millions are facing. The solutions are as complicated as the causes but one fact is clear that fat shaming is cruel and counterproductive as it only drives victims to eat more. That Jenni was, as she says, fat shamed by her own mother was another compelling part of our conversation. Jenni’s ability to recognise its impact on her life and yet to find forgiveness, speaks to her incredible resilience. Finally, Jenni’s coping mechanism throughout her crisis struck a chord with me. That through all her darkest moments keeping busy, taking charge of the practical issues ahead was her device. Another example of that simple idea focus on the things you can affect, however small and it will ease the anxiety of those things that you can’t change.
01:14:24.02 Andy Coulson:
Thanks for listening to Crisis What Crisis? Feel free to send us your feedback. You’ll find our contact details and show notes giving you the key insights from our guests at crisiswhatcrisis.com. There are also links to our newsletter, Facebook page and Instagram. There are more useful conversations on the way soon and if you enjoyed this podcast please do give us a rating and a review. Thanks again.
01:14:56.21 End of transcription