My Week: Sir Michael Parkinson

The broadcaster champions the cause of dignity in old age – and keeps putting off writing an article for the 'Wisden' almanack
  • @gillian_orr


I go to the gym and have a massage. I lie there thinking about what I have to do and things I've put off.

I've been commissioned by Wisden Cricketers' Almanack to write an article about Ricky Ponting, the Australian cricket captain, who I know well and admire greatly. I've been putting it off for ages. I think about what to write but I decide to go to the pub for lunch instead. I'm a typical journalist.


I'm in town because my report on being the dignity ambassador is published today. From 7am to 4pm I do interviews for press, TV and radio. I've had a year looking at how we treat our older people, in care and at home, and come to all sorts of conclusions, the main one being that we should look at the way we as a society treat and regard old people. We've lost that respect and view of them as a useful resource.

The year I had was extraordinary; I felt privileged to get this insight into the NHS and a lot of what I saw was deeply admirable. I was on a conducted tour and I'm not daft enough to pretend they're going to show me the real horror stuff but that came in the form of letters and emails. I had some horrendous emails from people detailing the kind of treatment you wouldn't give to a dog. The NHS is a wonderful thing but it's a huge bureaucracy and it lacks any engagement one to one with the client. There's no personal touch or warmth and that needs to be addressed. We've persuaded 2,500 people in the industry to sign up to our notion of dignity and care. One of the virtues of celebrity is that occasionally you get to use it in a positive way.


I'm still trying to write about Ricky Ponting but I give up. Australia are playing a Test match against Pakistan at the moment and there's been much criticism about Ponting in the Australian press. It's extraordinary how they doubt their heroes. I decide that Ponting is going to do something spectacular in this Test, as that's life, so I'm going to wait to see what he comes up with before I write my article.


Today I do press for Sport Relief which I've been involved with since 2002 when I interviewed Nelson Mandela to kick off the entire event. I'm looking forward to the next one in March. I wear my Sport Relief socks and do all the stuff you do to promote a day which will raise a huge amount of money. Afterwards I go to the Westfield shopping centre in west London where I have the worst Chinese food I've ever eaten. I buy myself a watch for consolation.


During my massage I think about Ricky Ponting again and then go to my office to deal with some paperwork. I will definitely write my article tomorrow. And you know what? Ponting ended up scoring 210 runs. What a hero. I never doubted him.