One of my favourite TV historians and writers is Michael Wood; he is always so enthusiastic and so interesting and so very knowledgeable.
The first time I remember seeing him on TV was in a series ‘In Search of the Dark Ages’, a period of history in which I’m fascinated. He has gone on to do many other TV programmes, and written books, most of which I have, In Search of the Trojan War, Legacy: A Search for the Origins of Civilisation, In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great, In Search of Myths and Heroes, The Story of India, King Alfred and the Anglo Saxons and most recently – in fact concluding tonight, The Story of China.
He was born in Manchester and went to Manchester Grammar School and must have been a contemporary of a good friend of mine from the swimming club I was a member of in Cambridge, the Granta. My friend who was reading maths at St Catherine’s went to Manchester Grammar School and would have been in the same year. Before Michael went to secondary school he went to a primary school in Rusholme, not far from where I lived several years later when I was a student at the Polytechnic; then he went to a primary school in Wythenshaw – many years after he was there, I was doing a teaching experience at that same school (not a teaching practice, for that I went to secondary schools in Irlam and in Rochdale)
In none of these coincidental connections were Michael and I ever at the same place at the same time. However… I lived for a while just outside Oldham in Lancashire. I had parked my car in the car park of a row of shops; to get to the shops which were above the car park you had to walk up a flight of concrete steps with a metal handrail. I’d had a long day teaching and my mind was on other things as I crossed the little car park. just as I got to the steps, who should be coming down was Michael!
I recognized him immediately – and you know how it is when you unexpectedly see someone you are familiar with from the media, for a few seconds you think you are actually acquainted with them. And so it was I stopped and must have had a look of recognition on my face because he stopped too… and then we just walked past each other…
There was nothing romantic in that glance, I’m not deluding myself than it was anything other than he might have politely thought I was going to speak to him… Oh, how I wish I had!!