The news from South Africa overnight that Nelson Mandela had died aged 95, having been receiving intensive care at his home in Johannesburg since September, has inevitably and rightly resulted in blanket media coverage around the world.
Politicians, statesmen, celebrities and notables from all walks of life have issued official statements and given personal reactions paying tribute to the remarkable life of this remarkable man. His unique story of as journey from nationalist freedom fighter, through incarceration in jail for twenty-seven years, to unifying beacon of reconciliation and forgiveness for not just South Africa but somehow also the world, touched the hearts and minds of millions of people who only read about his charismatic personality, or saw it in action for themselves on video or television broadcast.
In a small irony, at 6.30pm last night by chance I caught BBC Television’s local London News programme, which included a live report from the imminent London premiere of Long Walk To Freedom, Harvey Weinstein’s new biopic movie.
The leading actors – Idris Elba as Mandela and Naomi Harris as his ‘difficult’ wife Winnie – gave upbeat interviews on the red carpet and a mood of celebration was in the air. For a moment, I forgot the report in the newspapers earlier in the week, quoting one of Mandela’s daughters describing him as being ‘on his deathbed’. I subsequently noted, upon waking this morning, that the news of Mandela’s death had been announced to the celebrity audience at the conclusion of the movie’s showing.
Since rising today, not long after midnight, as habits demand, I have been at my computer listening to Radio Five Live through my earphones and – because it is being shown live on Sky Sports – occasionally glancing at my television at the Ashes test match taking place in Adelaide (with the sound turned down).
It is now rising 2.00am and I have a confession to make.
After two hours of a special Radio Five Live programme devoted to the life and death of Mandela, an endless flow of journalistic reporting and assessment combined with tributes from an enormous range of people both important and insignificant, I have just about had enough.
This is not intended as disrespectful to Mandela, his family, the South African nation or indeed anyone in the world, programme contributor or not [well, I might make an exception in the case of Sir Richard Branson, who came on the radio by phone an hour or so ago to inane effect], but I am already beginning to suffer from a surfeit of the marking of Mandela’s passing.
I am not criticising the journalists and reporters per se, because it is their job to report the facts and try to sum up the impact of Mandela upon the 20th Century and beyond, nor indeed the motives of those who have been queuing up to give their genuinely sincere reactions.
It’s just that there’s only so much an individual can take – especially when this is the kind of news story that is going to dominate the media today and for the entire weekend.
Accordingly, I’m afraid that a while ago I switched my attentions to the rather unfortunate course – for England – of the morning session in the Adelaide test match, in which the Australian captain Michael Clarke has just completed his second century in two tests, moments after being recalled to the crease after his apparent dismissal (caught behind) off the bowling of Ben Stokes was overturned due to a no-ball transgression revealed by the high-definition television camera.
It would have been Stokes’ first test wicket too.
Australia are 389 – 5, Clarke 109 not out, at the lunch break …