Live Long and Master Aging podcast



Farewell friend

Remembering Steve Wright's kindness


I lost a dear friend last week. In fact the UK, my home country, lost a national treasure. Steve Wright was much more than a DJ on the radio. He was a wonderful communicator, entertainer and soul-mate. He was everyone’s pal during more than four decades on the air and was the best at what he did. Millions tuned in to his shows but it was Steve’s kindness away from the studio and his friendship over the past 30 years that I will forever cherish.

This is a podcast about living as long as possible while enjoying the best life we can. Steve’s death, at the age of 69, was sudden and has been hard to come to terms with. This episode is devoted to his memory.

Joining me, once again, is Peter Allison. We were friends at school in North East England 50 years ago. Mid-life we lost touch but thanks to social media we now talk regularly and for the past few months have been sharing our thoughts about life, fitness and aging through this podcast.

We share a common interest in the science behind human longevity and the lifestyle interventions that could help us live longer and better. We review the latest research, media stories and personal hacks in pursuit of a long healthspan.

Peter has also suffered a recent bereavement, with the loss of his mother, just before Christmas. My sincere condolences to Peter and his family.

In this conversation we reflect on the loss of loved ones, in the context of this podcast, which at its core, is about living a long, purposeful and fulfilling life. 

Peter spent much of his life working as a professor of geology in London.  He is an experienced diver and keen to optimize his health and vitality to continue with his physically demanding pastime. 

Earlier conversations

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TRANSCRIPT – This conversation was recorded on February 22, 2024 and transcribed using Sonix AI. Please check against audio recording for absolute accuracy.

Peter Bowes: [00:00:00] Certainly in the case of of Steve Wright, I’ve heard stories that are very, very similar to mine about his kindness, about his generosity, about his giving nature.

Peter Allison: [00:00:11] Isn’t that a fantastic way to be remembered, to be remembered as somebody who was so kind? That’s fantastic.

Peter Bowes: [00:00:19] I’m glad that’s the way that he’s being remembered, because it is so justified. And, you know, I say try to let’s make this conversation a little bit relevant to what we normally talk about. And I think what is coming home to me, what it’s brought into focus is the value of friendships. I mean, just quite simply, the value in our lives of the other people that are in our lives.

Peter Bowes: [00:00:49] Hello again. Welcome to the Live Long and Master Aging podcast. My name is Peter Bowes. With me is Peter Allison. We were friends at school in England 50 years ago. We went our separate ways midlife. But now, thanks to social media, we have regular conversations and over the past few months have been talking about our shared interest in human longevity, how to optimize the next chapter in our lives as we, well, I guess, hurtle towards our mid-sixties. We are now both well into our. I think this is right, isn’t it, Peter? Our seventh decade?

Peter Allison: [00:01:25] Yes, but my next birthday, as I guess yours will be 63.

Peter Bowes: [00:01:29] Yeah. And my birthday is actually coming up soon, just a few weeks time. So my next birthday is 62. So you’re a little bit ahead. You’re a little bit ahead of me. But what’s a few months when you get to your seventh decade?  So Peter, this episode is going to be a little bit different. We’re going to talk about grief, loss, bereavement and I hope try to put it in context, the context being what we usually discuss on this podcast and that is living a long, purposeful, hopefully healthy and fulfilling life. We’ve both suffered losses in recent weeks, and Peter, I was very sorry to hear about the passing of your mum. It was just before Christmas, wasn’t it? Yes.

Peter Allison: [00:02:12] Yeah. yes. My mother died on she died on Christmas Eve.

Peter Bowes: [00:02:17] I am extremely sorry about that. The loss that I’ve suffered has just been in the last few days last week. And if you’re listening to this in the UK, Steve Wright was a very good friend of mine. We worked together on BBC Radio One and later on Radio Two. He was a broadcaster, a DJ. He was much more than a DJ. He was a great interviewer. But above all, Steve was a really good friend. He was on the air for more than 40 years. We’d known each other for 30 years, and he sadly passed away at the age of 69 last week. It was very sudden and just looking at the the outpouring of grief and the way that people in the UK have been remembering Steve, of course, largely people who had never met him but had listened to him for for many, many years on the radio. He was someone who meant an awful lot to a lot of people, and we I certainly am going to miss him tremendously. We remained friends after working together every day. The crack of dawn, 6:00 in the morning, 7:00 in the morning, we were on the air with a breakfast show. And then I moved to America and we stayed in touch. And whenever I came back to the UK, we if we could, we would get together. And the last time I saw him was, was just last year. We had a I could describe it as a deliciously long lunch. You know, it’s been a good lunch and a good conversation when you suddenly look around you, Peter, and you realize that the restaurant is completely empty and you are the only two people there, and that’s the kind of experience you’d have with Steve. We would talk about life and and news, and he was very interested. He loved America. He loved California. We would talk about everything. And he he was kind hearted. He was supportive. And he was one of these people who always wanted to know about you. He was a larger than life character. There was much to talk about going on in his life, but he always wanted to know how you were doing. And I remember when I launched this podcast in 2017, I told Steve about it and he was immediately very encouraging, asked me to come on his show on radio two to talk about it. I did that, and his sole purpose there was just to help me. He just wanted to help with a venture that he also found interesting. So I’m really going to miss our conversations. I think that’s the thing that’s the most difficult to come to terms with that I will never talk to him again. And there’s always something I think you might reflect this as well. There’s always something that you you kind of regret that because you maybe didn’t completely finish a conversation, there was something else you wanted to say. There was there was more to be done in the future. And certainly Steve was a very forward looking person. He was full of ideas. And that’s one of the things that would, I think, result in these very long conversations over lunch, that he was an ideas person. He always had something that he wanted to do in the future, and we just shared those ideas. So it’s been tough to come to terms with, and I suppose trying to bring some context to this and maybe make it relevant to what you and I often talk about, Peter is bringing it into focus and how I am going to remember who was someone who was a very good friend in the future. And I think it is through the inspiration that he brought to me and to my life. And I think that’s how I will in a positive sense move forward and think about him. Maybe. How would in a difficult time, how would Steve have dealt with this? We all go through difficult times, but some people, I think, perhaps are better at dealing with it and bouncing back. And certainly Steve was one of those people that you just need to have a short conversation. He used to call me quite a lot out of the blue, and it’s quite funny, really. He was one of these people. He would never say, hi, Steve, hello. He would just launch straight into whatever was on his mind. It was almost as if he was talking mid-sentence and out it would come, and then a long conversation would result, and we would talk about whatever he was thinking about and maybe put the world to rights. But it was always a positive experience. And I think, Peter, that’s the thing that I’m going to miss most.

Peter Allison: [00:06:32] Yeah, I was listening to the listening to you there, and I was just thinking about how our society has changed over hundreds of years from what it was, you know, going back to several hundred years or a thousand years ago, and you’d be living in a small village and a small group of people and, you know, somebody would pass, pass on. And so you, you grew up familiar with the process. You would have you would have been more connected to people who were whose lives were coming to an end and whose lives had ended. And you’d have that connection and you’d see other people deal with it. And it gets to a and I think now we live so much more sort of distinctly defined lives that we sort of, I guess, as you and I are getting older, we see more of that and we come into more contact. But I wonder if we are perhaps less. We have and we have a society which is geared towards life, and yet death is the most natural thing on earth. So I’m just thinking about how we deal with it. And I just think it’s so easy, isn’t it? When you think about how you’re going to deal with how you deal with death, there are, you know, if you’re talking to somebody, somebody else, it’s so easy for people to can give you little bits of advice. And yet those bits of advice can be. I sometimes think if the people are giving you advice, it’s sort of like helps the person who’s giving you advice. It might not necessarily help the person who’s grieving and grieving such a personal thing to so many different people, and we just don’t get very much preparation for how to do it, do we?

Peter Bowes: [00:08:08] We don’t. And I guess that’s the nature of life and aging that clearly when you’re younger and thankfully you don’t have to deal with with death, at least most of us universally, that’s not always the case. And some people do have to suffer tremendous loss at a younger age. But generally you’re older. And I think the one if you’re looking at a positive here, just being older and the wisdom that comes with being at a certain age does help you deal with loss and bereavement. And when it’s someone who is is very old and has lived a good life, clearly it is easier to deal with it. Is that the celebratory aspect of that person’s passing, the celebratory side being the life that they led and the good that they did and the the friendships that they nurtured during their lives. That’s easier to accept. But when someone is younger and certainly in Steve’s case, 69 years old, is is very young to die, and especially when it is a sudden death, that’s when it is. It is more difficult because there’s the kind of, if only in your mind, if only that person had survived to continue leading the good life. And there’s always something and this is perhaps irrational, but there’s something in your mind. If only I’d known. Or I could have helped. Now there’s there’s no sort of rational thinking there, because clearly, my situation with someone like Steve, there’s nothing you could have done. But those thoughts go through your mind. And I’m kind of rambling here, because I think that maybe just reflects the difficulty that we face in that we don’t, as you say, have the the training. That sounds a little too clinical, but we don’t have the, the preparation to, to deal with, with sudden loss.

Peter Allison: [00:09:55] So I’m, I have a tendency sometimes to be, I guess, compulsive about things and obsessive compulsive. I have a slight tendency for to be obsessive compulsive to the extent that. So when you’re talking about was there anything I could do? I’ve led a number of student field trips to coasts and cliff environments, or outdoor places, which are notionally have a level of risk or hazard associated with them. And so, you know, I have to produce these documents, and it’s not just producing the documents, but it’s actually running a field trip and trying to make sure nobody gets hurt. And so what my level of compulsion is sometimes if I see a possible risk or if I see a student doing something which I perceive as being risky, I have to tell them. And if I don’t tell them, then I feel as though maybe I’ll be responsible. I’ll have a level of responsibility if something goes wrong, and that sort of spills out into all sorts of sorts of aspects of my life. You know, I can sometimes if I see that’s a potential risk, I can say something going wrong with that. I have to tell somebody, because if I don’t, I’ll be responsible. And then that can make other people who are who are the people who I’m telling can get very, very, very annoyed about that. And I think I’ve had to learn that I, you know, where my responsibility stops, because otherwise I can just shoulder so much responsibilities for things that aren’t really my responsibility. So I have to learn not to do that and to be very careful about drawing the boundaries. And I wonder if that impacts upon the way that people grieve, as well as to know where just what you take out, you know, if you’re thinking about regret, what you take, what bit of that great regret you’re going to take ownership of, and what are you going to just leave alone?

Peter Bowes: [00:11:40] And I think that’s a very individual thing, isn’t it? And every situation is different in terms of who the person is that you’ve lost, how really how close you were to that person. And I think there’s a certainly there has been with me. There’s a learning process after the loss when you think deeply about what someone meant to you, and certainly in the case of Steve Wright. I mean, it’s an unusual case because he was so famous and so well known, and many, many people in the UK have been paying tribute. And you must have seen a lot of the news coverage. And I’ve been listening to stories from people who’ve had very similar experiences to me. And, you know, as you go through life and as you nurture a friendship, you don’t necessarily talk about it or or maybe even process yourself what it means to you in that moment. It’s after the fact that maybe you begin to think about it. But I’ve heard stories that are very, very similar to mine about his kindness, about his generosity, about his giving nature, to the point that I thought at one point, how on earth did he have time for all of us? And he was that. Person that did seem to have time. As I say, the conversations were were very long, they were very nurturing and enjoyable, and so many people seem to have had the same experience. And so as I say, this is a an unusual situation because he was well known. But you don’t have to be talking about a famous person for this. I think to resonate. We all go through our lives and have different kinds of relationships with lots of different people.

Peter Allison: [00:13:18] Isn’t that I mean, isn’t that a fantastic way to be remembered, to be remembered as somebody who was so kind? That’s fantastic.

Peter Bowes: [00:13:25] It is. I’m glad that’s the way that is being remembered, because it is so justified. And, you know, I say try to let’s make this conversation a little bit relevant to what we normally talk about. And I think what is coming home to me, what it’s brought into focus is the value of friendships. I mean, just quite simply the value in our lives of the other people that are in our lives.

Peter Allison: [00:13:52] Yeah. I mean, I mean, I was struck by that. I used to, you know, thinking about if you think about our own epitaphs, just being to be remembered as somebody who was kind would be a wonderful thing. And I guess then the thought is, you know, if it’s a wonderful thing, then, you know, bring it, you know, bring it to pass, you know, by grabbing the opportunities to be kind, I think. Do you think that kindness in our society is something that is undervalued?

Peter Bowes: [00:14:27] I think it is. And I think it is underappreciated because, well, maybe because we live in quite a cruel world. We live in a difficult world, a very difficult world at the moment. If you look at the the wars that are taking place, if you look at the discord in nations like the one that I’m in the United States, the bitter political rivalry that’s going on at the moment, how people seemingly hate each other. And that is coming out in social media. And I mentioned at the beginning, you and I thankfully talk now because of social media. There are some positive aspects to it, but there are so many negative sides as well. And I think human kindness is often lost these days, and there’s a kind of vacuum that is there to be filled, and it’s difficult, and it’s a struggle to think how to to try to rediscover those basic values that perhaps were more prevalent at a different time. If you if you were asked to sum up society these days, kindness isn’t necessarily the word that would first come to mind.

Peter Allison: [00:15:47] Do you think that perhaps that kindness, if you think about the sorts of human, you know, face to face human interactions, you know, there’s a whole range of face to face human interactions which you can commonly seen. Kindness is one of them. And then the the antithesis of there as well. But if you’re just thinking about social media, you know, I mean, like the, the sort of like the sound bite social media of the rather than as we are now, just at least having a face to face conversation. But in soundbite social media, do you think that just pretty much excludes kindness? It’s almost like a filter, which excludes kindness, largely, I think, and encourages and seems to let the negative things come through. Its either negative or it’s neutral. It doesn’t seem to transmit kindness.

Peter Bowes: [00:16:33] I think you’re right. I think perhaps it’s because kindness is more of a slower emotion. Kindness kind of flows and you absorb from other people kindness. But the world that we live in and relating this to social media is a sort of now, now, now, as you say, sort of sound bite. Either you’re pro or anti, you love something or you hate it. And that’s the the basis of a lot of the dialog that we see. I mean, this isn’t exclusive. There are clearly examples of kindness that are out there. I’m not saying that we’re living in a 100% cruel world. Far from it. There are lots of wonderful people out there, but I think the on the surface, we live in this kind of almost clinical world where people don’t express it, don’t express their appreciation of kindness when they see it. For all we do have people like Steve around us and many others that perhaps we’re not noticing the kindness in people in the way that we should.

Peter Allison: [00:17:38] Yeah, I mean, as you say that, I’m almost wondering about whether, you know, the impact of or the the sort of spread of a kind act seems to be a fraction. Of the spread of the notoriety, let’s put it that way. The headlines, the headlines of a kind act is a fraction of the headlines of an unkind act.

Peter Bowes: [00:18:01] That’s a really good point. And there’s this saying in news that if it bleeds, it leads. Bad news trumps good news any day. And that’s I mean, I work in news. It’s always been a frustration to me that the worst of headlines are the ones that will be most prominent. The ones that are about death and destruction are the ones that we will read about. And there’s sometimes good reason for that, because atrocities, attention needs to be brought to them. And sometimes a tough hitting headline about something awful that’s happened will actually result in kindness. It’ll get the message out and help people galvanize support for whatever scenario we’re talking about. But but generally, you’re right that we don’t trumpet good acts and kindness in people as much as we tend to hear about the the negative things that are happening in this world.

Peter Allison: [00:18:58] Yeah, yeah, I mean, I guess so looking at movies and looking at soap soaps, there’s so much emphasis on the the killer comeback, isn’t there? The killer comment, which is the strike back. There is so much on that which is. The antithesis. And that just bleeds into the that’s the that’s the role model behavior for everybody that’s growing up. To think of that killer comeback comment rather than the comment that douses the fire.

Peter Bowes: [00:19:33] And I guess you’re reflecting something that’s not real life here, that, you know, soap operas and movies, the they’re scripted for drama. And, I mean, I know people who don’t watch soaps anymore because they’re always shouting at each other. It’s always negative, they’re always arguing. And and we could list British soap operas, especially but that seems to be the, the sentiment and and not really. You know, what you and I can hopefully expect in, in real life. One thing I’m just interested in talking to you, Peter, about is how we measure someone’s life as a whole. And we’ve talked a lot about kindness here, but you and I, on a regular basis, talking about longevity. Yes. Hopefully staying as healthy as we can, living a long, purposeful life. And I’m just wondering going through my mind is the long is fine, but perhaps the purposeful and yes, the kind is actually more important. It’s how you’ve lived your life rather than the quantity. It’s quality rather than quantity.

Peter Allison: [00:20:43] Yes, I do think so. I mean, I you know, you come across various people over the years who tragically die young but have led tremendously kind and fulfilling and impactful lives that are humbling in the things that they’ve achieved. And when I say achievement, I’m not necessarily saying, you know, they’ve some of the things have just like bringing great calm to people and being kind to so many people. Yeah. And I think it’s because of the conversations that we’ve had. It’s just so easy to focus on that longevity as a number. But you’re right, it’s the it’s the impact and the kindness and the purpose because that’s what people remember. People won’t remember you as dying, as being a very, very old person. They’ll remember you as being very, very kind, like Steve Wright.

Peter Bowes: [00:21:30] Yeah. They’ll remember you for what you were. And I’m wondering, do these kinds of experiences do they? And it’s a phrase that we hear quite a lot. Do they make you want to be a better person? For all the reasons we’ve been talking about. And in reality, does anything ever actually change in your own mindset?

Peter Allison: [00:21:50] I these conversations, funnily enough, I’ve been thinking about this for the last couple of. I’ve been well, I’ve often thought about this because I’m always I’m a very self-critical sort of person. I’ve been reading online about the meditations of a Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Have you come across him?

Peter Bowes: [00:22:13] I have not, no.

Peter Allison: [00:22:14] All right. So. So the. He was often regarded as being the last good emperor. And so he’s a he was a stoic. So he has a he wrote. What’s really interesting is he wrote a series of meditations which were not meant to be published. He was the emperor. He was the most powerful man in the world. He didn’t need to publish anything. So they were just his own notes to help him be a better person. And they’re on things they’re not like about how I’m going to take 13 legions and invade Germania. It was, you know, just about life and how what things he was going to take notice of. And I’ve been reading about it online. So I’m getting I’ve got his book arriving, the book meditations that’s arriving tomorrow. So I’m going to start reading through that. And some of that’s about, I mean, and I think some of it, from what I’ve been reading, is seems to be very relevant for a, for a world with social media, and it’s about being involved in social media stories or, you know, I hesitate to use the word gossip, but, you know, be involved in things that you’ve got no influence or influence over. Then why have any involvement in them? Why let them impact upon you? Just,just focus on the things that you can impact upon and try to live a better life and be a better person. So anyway, that’s I’m going to get this book and I’ll have a read of it. And if I think it’s any and I’ll tell you what I’ve learned.

Peter Bowes: [00:23:43] I look forward to it. And you just sparked one thought in my mind. And I think it’s a good one about how, you know, we can disparage social media. I think we can see the good and the bad. And I think one of the skills and one of the skills I’m I’m still learning, we’re probably all still learning is how to shut it out, is how to ignore it. It it’s there. It’s there all around us. It’s on our phones. Our phones are constantly in front of us. And it’s. And I think I’m probably getting a little bit better of the filtering process to try to concentrate on those things that are really important and to try to, as I say, just kind of ignore all of the the rubbish that when we were young, when we were at school didn’t exist. We weren’t, we had no distractions. I often think, wouldn’t it have been great if we, you and I, had had the internet when we were at school? Just imagine that resource for revising and for education. But then I think, well, maybe it was just as well we didn’t.

Peter Allison: [00:24:40] Well, you know, in my line of business, I can say some of the wonderful things about the internet. You know, I was talking to some students earlier on this week and about how to do a how to find papers on a subject, you know, publication, scientific publications on a subject. And 30 years ago, my goodness, you’d go and you’d be looking in the library. You’d be you’d be reading papers, chasing references. You’d look, I think it’s there was a there was a sign, some version of the Science Citation Index thing that you could go and chase, which was a big annual book. It would take you days to do what I can now do with a few mouse clicks, you know, I mean, it was just. Yeah. so there is massive benefit in being able to being able to find information. But like you, in terms of my mobile phone, I try to leave my phone in a different room once. Once I get 5 or 6:00, I put my phone in a different room and I try. Otherwise it’s so addictive just picking it up and looking at the latest thing, you know, which I don’t need to know.

Peter Bowes: [00:25:41] I’m totally with you.

Peter Allison: [00:25:42] It’s, destructive. 

Peter Bowes: [00:25:44] Let’s end this on a looking forward note, and maybe we’ll pick this up in our next conversation. But we left off last December talking about our aspirations for the coming year. And we’re focusing here on on health and and fitness. How I know you’ve gone through a difficult time. It’s been rough for me the last couple of weeks. But how are you in terms of those aspirations? I know I talked about perhaps picking up running again, which is actually something I, I did do. I’m not doing it as frequently as I would like, but I am doing it on a regular basis and actually finding it quite tough going. I’m surprised how difficult I find running a couple of miles now, compared with what I remember of running when I used to do it a lot and long distances 20 or 30 years ago. But positively, I’m doing it and and hope to at least achieve that 5K in the next few months.

Peter Allison: [00:26:36] Brilliant. I just in the run up to Christmas, I got my gym going back up to speed. I started using the machines again. So I’d started that. So that was starting to looking good. I was feeling pleased and then I just had a couple of weeks off, so I’m having to pick that back up again. But I’ve gone back up. So I’m doing the starting and the cardio starting on the machines. So I’m back into picking it up. When will I start running? When there’s a little bit less rain? I think it’s it’s really cold and unpleasant at the moment, and the place where I’ll go and run is very, very muddy. So I’ll, I’ll start running. But I’m back at the gym at any rate. I’ve just got to keep on going back and I’ve got to lose a bit more weight because I think I was I’ve been comfort eating and so I have to just take a grip of that and try and lose a bit of weight.

Peter Bowes: [00:27:25] I’m with you on all of that, including the weather. I mean, I’m in California and everyone usually sort of looks jealously upon me because they assume it’s wall to wall blue skies and sunshine we’ve had. I mean, the El Nino weather pattern I think has has caused this. We’ve had a tremendous amount of of rain. And here we are in the middle of February. We went for my early morning walk today. My hands were freezing and we just had three days of continuous rain. So there’s lots of mud around here as well.

Peter Allison: [00:27:51] The temperature this morning was 11 or 12 degrees. And then in the space of three hours, it dropped by seven degrees. And now we’ve got a spell. So it was unseasonably warm for the last, ten days, which was very nice. and now it’s just getting back to it. People are saying it’s getting cold. It’s getting back to just normal February weather. That’s where it’s getting back to.

Peter Bowes: [00:28:12] Here we are being very British and talking about the weather again. That’s probably Peter. That’s a good way I think. Let’s end it here. This is it’s been a useful conversation. Cathartic I think I would almost say I really appreciate your thoughts. We will talk again soon. Take care.

Peter Allison: [00:28:27] Okay. Look forward to it.

The Live Long and Master Aging (LLAMA) podcast, a HealthSpan Media LLC production, shares ideas but does not offer medical advice. If you have health concerns of any kind, or you are considering adopting a new diet or exercise regime, you should consult your doctor.

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