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Journalist Hugh Pym recalls being caught in the crossfire of a North London gang dispute


Hugh Pym headshot

Hugh Pym recalls the moment he was caught in a gang crossfire in St John’s Wood (Image: Phil Coomes )

My best friend is… I am blessed with friends who have been hospitable and generous over many years and I have sometimes not been able to reciprocate. It is wrong to single anyone out and I will simply say thank you and I will try to do better in future. My three brothers and some great BBC colleagues. 

My nickname is… normally related to my height (6ft 7ins). For colleagues at work it’s Huge Pym. At school it was Skis – I have size 14 feet. When I worked in Glasgow, it was Shuggy (Scottish nickname for Hugh). 

The bravest thing I’ve ever done was… diving under a table at Harry Morgan’s restaurant in St John’s Wood, London, some years ago after hearing what sounded like gunshots. So not very brave at all. I pulled my son down, banging his head on the table. It turned out they really were gunshots as one man in a crash helmet chased another right through the restaurant. It was a miracle nobody was seriously hurt – it turned out they were rival gang members trying to sort out their differences in an unlikely setting. Instinct took over and I phoned in to BBC London to do a report from the scene. 

My favourite TV show is… all BBC News programmes (obviously), Homeland, Downton Abbey, The Crown, Line Of Duty. 

My perfect evening is… dinner with my family at Locanda Locatelli run by the wonderful Giorgio Locatelli. 

My first kiss was… at primary school (which was a very long time ago and memories fade…). 

The best thing my parents taught me was… think of others first and do your best for the local community. I was brought up with my three brothers in Malmesbury in Wiltshire. My father was a GP and my mother a vet and between them they knew almost every family in the town. Looking after local people was their priority. If we said we were unwell when my father was back from his surgery at the end of a long day he would take one look and say, “I have seen people who are really ill today and you are not one of them.” 

My biggest regret is… my father not being around to meet his daughters-in-law and grandchildren. He died much too young at 58. 

I’d like to say sorry to… my family for all those late nights in the newsroom over many years – they have been hugely supportive and understanding. Our dog Robbie – now a veteran – sorry I have to drag you off the sofa for the late-evening walk. 

The one thing I’d change about myself is… I’d like to lose four inches and be 6ft 3ins – a much more sensible height and no more cramp on long flights, complaints from people sitting behind in the theatre or cinema and a better choice of clothing. 

Hugh Pym headshot

Hugh always tries to do good by his local community (Image: Phil Coomes)

The last time I cried was… when Bobby Zamora scored for QPR against Derby in the Championship Play-off Final. 

The first record I ever bought was…You’re So Vain by Carly Simon, followed by Elton John’s Crocodile Rock. 

It’s not good for my image, but I like…magic tricks – I did a bit of conjuring as a teenager but without much competence.I wish I had practised and got better. Maybe there’s still a chance – can you teach an old dog new tricks? 

My greatest weakness is… chocolate. 

If I could pass any law it would be… something to sort out once and for all the problems of social care in England. 

I drive… my family crazy with constant questions. It’s the journalist in me and I tend to carry on in the same vein when back at home in the evening. 

The shop I can’t walk past is… Euro Sports on Finchley Road. My sons and I have been buying sports equipment from them for years. Any second-hand bookshop, especially the one near the London School of Economics. Thanks as always to Queen’s Park Books. 

The most expensive thing I’ve ever splashed out on is… too many new books over the years which remain unread. 

My perfect Sunday is… morning service at St Columba’s Church of Scotland, Pont Street in west London, followed by a bit of sporting action (cricket at Lords or the Oval in summer) and Sunday roast back home. 

My favourite place in Britain is… Devon’s South Hams. I’ve been going there on family holidays for almost 60 years. There’s nothing to beat an estuary swim on a warm summer’s evening. 

My last holiday was… It has been far, far too long since anyone in the UK has had a holiday. 

I’m currently reading… A Long Half Hour by Stephen Chalke. I love sporting nostalgia history books and Stephen Chalke is one of the most gifted cricket writers around. This has pen portraits of six former cricketers, including Arthur Milton, the last double England international for football and cricket – for Gloucestershire in the summer and Arsenal in the winter. As a boy I saw him play in the early 1970s. A sporting titan (his double sporting achievements will never be repeated). In later life he became a postman in Bristol. 

The best day of my life was… Aside from my wedding day and the birth of my children, watching England win the Ashes at the Oval in 2005. There is something wonderful about the climax of a series at that famous old ground in Kennington. 

If I had half an hour left on Earth, I would… get on to YouTube and watch some of those glorious sporting moments with commentaries by Bill McLaren, Richie Benaud, John Motson and Barry Davies. 


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