Pioneering British television journalist Sue Lloyd-Roberts who died this week was one of those remarkable people we’re occasionally privileged to meet simply because we spend time in and around Deia.
There have been many obituaries for Sue in the grown-up media, along with heartfelt tributes like this one from Aung San Suu Kyi, opposition leader in Myanmar (or Burma) who said: “Sue Lloyd-Roberts showed great courage and commitment in reporting from Burma during some of our darkest days, and exemplified my belief that the best journalists are also the nicest.”
I met Sue a few times and she was always friendly, open and warm. She had the journalist’s knack of remembering my name and what I did, even though we barely knew each other. The most time we ever spent together was on a six-hour walk that started on the little road that runs down from Valdemossa to its port and ended, after a lung-bursting climb, at Son Marroig.
Not exactly a stroll in the park
The walk Sue and I met on was organised by a Russian woman who had gathered together a group of her friends, some of whom were strangers to each other.
I wasn’t in the best possible shape for walking. Especially the route we ended up taking.
The previous winter had been a cold one. Parts of the path had disappeared into the sea, making progress especially slow and exhausting. Sometimes we tiptoed on treacherously slippery dirt, at others we clambered over boulders. Half of the walking party retraced their steps but some of us soldiered on. Without being too corny, I think one of the reasons I did so was because I got talking to Sue as she skipped from rock to rock while I lumbered after her.
The wisdom of never making assumptions
When we’d got to the “What do you do?” stage, Sue told me she worked for the BBC.
Because of her jolly hockey sticks manner and plummy voice, I automatically assumed Sue read the weather forecast on Radio Tweeside or some such. But I can console myself with the fact that I was only making the kind of serious misjudgement that lulled all kinds of unpleasant characters into confiding in Sue. To their detriment.
When Sue did talk a little about what she did, describing how she travelled to China on a false passport to investigate a human rights abuse story, she said that she treated it as “a bit of a lark”.
This was perhaps a clue to who Sue was and why she was so good at her job. She was either genuinely not afraid or refused to acknowledge that she was scared. And her lack of fear, coupled with what felt like real kindness, helped me finish that horrendous walk.
As I said, I saw Sue a few times after that and it was always a pleasure. I’m glad I met her. And, along with many people in Deia I’m sure, I send my condolences to her husband Nick and her family.