John Gibson: Clarissa, me and a tale of woe

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She’d been through the mill and then some. When we met on a frosty Monday morning at nine in her snug living room at Inveresk, steaming mugs of coffee helped us face the day.

Two weeks earlier, Clarissa Dickson-Wright was coming round in intensive care in a Spanish hospital.

She had been grabbing a brief holiday during a week of researching for an imminent TV series when, suddenly, half way up a mountain, an old hernia problem played up so desperately it put her at death’s door.

Clarissa dramatised it: “I was the only person on that mountain who didn’t think I was going to die. A strangulated umbilical hernia is one of the most painful things you can have. I had an uncle who died of it.’’

Inveresk was beginning to sound like a telly soap.

The just-glad-to-be-alive Clarissa (now she’s gone) added: “As the ambulance brought me down that bumpy road, I thought ‘I’m not ready to die yet, I’ve too many things to do’. Did I pray? I didn’t half! I said over and over the Serenity Prayer.

“My prayers were answered. It was as though somebody turned a light on and I knew I wasn’t going to expire.”

She was in hospital ten days in all.

“Being a surgeon’s daughter, hospitals hold no fear for me. They explained what they had done. Over here they’re not all that inclined to tell you.

“On the fourth day enough flowers to fill the Albert Hall arrived from the BBC. Two great bouquets. The kind that are presented to divas.”

Clarissa Dickson-Wright, I can testify with this recollection, had been to hell and back.