Sir Patrick Moore, the astronomer, spoke yesterday of how he nearly died from a bout of food poisoning that caused him to miss his television show for the first time in 47 years.
Sir Patrick, 81, who is listed in Guinness World Records as the longest serving television presenter, failed to appear on Sunday night's edition of his monthly BBC1 programme, The Sky At Night. He was replaced by the cosmologist Chris Lintott.
Sir Patrick suffered a bout of salmonella food poisoning which is thought to have come from a duck egg he ate at his home in West Sussex last Wednesday. He is recovering at St Richard's Hospital in Chichester. "I very, very nearly died, it was quite awful," Sir Patrick said. "I can't be sure, but I believe it was the egg that I ate that evening. I suddenly collapsed and was taken to hospital and it was very serious indeed. I don't have much strength at the moment but I am now out of danger and over the worst and I'm hoping to leave hospital later this week."
The presenter said he was determined not to miss another show. "It was the first time in 47 years that I missed it," he said. "I do not intend to miss another one as I'm only three years away from the 50th year of presenting the programme."
Early editions were transmitted live from the BBC's Lime Grove studios, which allowed for the occasional unforeseen event. Sir Patrick once swallowed a fly live on air and, on another occasion, he had to think on his feet when a Russian guest turned out not to speak any English; the interview went ahead in pidgin French.
The programme has inspired successive generations of stargazers. "It gives me a great thrill to meet astronomers, both amateur and professional, who tell me their enthusiasm for the subject began by watching The Sky at Night, or through reading something I'd written," Patrick says on his website.
As well as writing more than 60 books on astronomy, on his 1908 typewriter, Sir Patrick is a skilled composer, and taught himself to play the xylophone, which he has played at a Royal Variety Performance.He has also played cricket for the Lord's Taverners.
He was knighted three years ago - the same year that he won a Bafta award for services to television and became a member of the Royal Society.
"This century will be very interesting, though I will only see the first part of it, of course," he said recently. "For instance, the first man on Mars has probably already been born, and we may have made contact with another life-form from somewhere we can only see clearly from Earth in the sky at night."