Could you please spare a few seconds and vote for this campaign, Headsmart, created to drive research into diagnosing brain tumours in children? Here’s the voting page from The National Lottery.
Idon’t often get starstruck. That’s because I don’t lead a lifestyle where there’s an opportunity to brush your shoulder with celebrities now and then, and when I do get a chance very rarely, I tend to stay calm and not appear overexcited. As a natural instinct, when other people flock around famous people for autographs before and selfies these days, I decided to stay away from mindless adulation. But very rarely comes a moment when you start with meeting someone as a complete stranger, then realise he or she is a superstar, and like them by virtue of how you find them personally, not just through the statistics or the cover pages they were featured on. This was one such instance when I spent an entire day with Lewis Moody, the Ex-England rugby captain. And I’m admittedly starstruck.
We planned to come to the activity day out arranged by The Brain Tumour Charity. We thought it would be a great opportunity to meet people in similar situations, and a day out for Sofia. When we left this morning, it was brilliant weather with a spotless sky and a promise of a great day ahead. On the way to Conkers, Jennifer mentioned that the welcome email said the event is also supported by a Lewis Moody Foundation. That name didn’t ring any bell to me, and I thought it might be another charity supporting brain tumour causes, named after a patient.
When we finally reached there, at the reception desk, apart from the volunteers of the charity, we were greeted by this very tall man with rippling muscles and a wide smile, as he said, “Hi, I’m Lewis”. After sitting down, I wondered if he’s the Lewis Moody of the foundation? His physique gave away that he’s into sports, and a few rugby balls scattered around the hall confirmed that he’s probably a rugby player. But at what level? He looked young, does he represent a local team? Or someone who played a few odd games as a reserve at a bigger level? The terrible 3G coverage made sure that all my attempts to find it out were futile. So Lewis Moody remained a mystery.
But it didn’t matter anyway. Throughout the day, we were involved in many activities, and Lewis popped in and out, talking to the families visited. Sofia was already talking to his son Ethan, and Lewis wasn’t a stranger to her anymore. It was a family day and everybody joined in the activities, participants and organisers alike. Lewis’ wasn’t any different. We spoke many times during the day, as Sofia enjoyed her rugby session with him, and a bit of friendly skirmish and water splashing during the canoeing — he mingled with us as equals, and my first impression of Lewis being “some” rugby player was transformed into a nice, energetic and down to earth person.
The penny dropped after all our activities were finished and we were getting ready for a final photoshoot. A brief look on the phone showed the search results I asked for six hours ago. And I was right on one count, he is a rugby player! And yes, he is “some” rugby player, if that’s how you can describe stalwarts, over a decade with the English rugby team with numerous caps, captaining the country, winning member of the Rugby World Cup, an MBE — the credentials were endless.
But did that make any difference to our experience? It did, only marginally, now that we know his statistics are as fabulous as his demeanour. Coming across a famous sportsperson is rare in our daily life. Meeting someone who is not an arrogant brat is pretty much a MasterCard moment. It’s priceless. It’s not just us, not many people swooned over Lewis and perhaps that made it easy for him to mingle with the rest as well. When he spoke to the people during the day, one could see that he showed a sincere interest in listening to them and participated in the conversation that didn’t revolve around rugby at all. It didn’t matter what his background was, the fact that he was pleasant and amicable was reason enough to remember him.
But the realisation that he is someone famous made me reflect on a similar scenario, for which I kept thinking that day was my Sharapova moment. For those who don’t know, Maria Sharapova said in an interview that she didn’t know of Sachin Tendulkar — the prolific Indian cricketer, and Demi-God. Following that, there was a big hoo-ha in India, with everyone demanding an apology from Sharapova. Until, of course, Sachin himself spoke out in public that it’s perfectly normal for the rest of the world not know about a sport played largely in 12 countries! Now, if you wonder who Sharapova is, I don’t blame you, but you must have Google on your device. But the fundamental issue is that there are hundreds and thousands of professional sportspersons with incredible achievements, but people can’t know every one of them. As much as it’s unfair and absurd for the players and their fans to be upset due to this, it is equally unfair expecting people to know and memorise the achievements for every sportsperson.
However, being starstruck didn’t involve hankering for autographs and selfies. Lewis Moody chose to devote his time following retirement in his foundation associated with the charities, and it contributed to the successful day out we had. However, it would be extremely ungrateful not to mention the volunteers for The Brain Tumour Charity who arranged the event and made it happen at the first place. They travelled a long distance, gave every family a warm and heartfelt welcome and their stories and experiences shared with the others. And the families who attended the event. Having such a major illness and the trauma, the pain, the endless wait to the road to recovery associated with it, can turn anyone’s life upside down. It takes great strength to deal with the ailment, and continue with your life, and for this reason, the meet-up turned out to be one amongst the equals, involving people with incredible strength of character on or outside the pitch.
So, why am I not writing about others? I think it’s because not knowing who Lewis was for the entire day was in a way funny. It was about wondering who he was at the beginning, then trying to imagine what level he played at, then forgetting who he was in his professional life altogether and enjoying the day in activities with him and everyone else…and finally, the dawn of the truth. It’s also because finding a famous person who is humble and empathetic is rare. And finally, meeting him was a realisation that you can still like someone famous based on their human qualities rather than what they did in their professional life. And the fact that seeing Lewis and his wife Annie and the other volunteers on the day, Becky, Emma, the lady with round glasses, the girl with the camera — it made me feel that you can just appear the person next door, but you can do extraordinary things.
So, the outcome of meeting Lewis? Firstly, I now know who he is, so that’s going into my trivia bank. Secondly, I’m a bit interested in rugby now than I was before. And finally, I ended the day feeling bloody frustrated learning that he’s the same age as I am and he’s already retired! But despite that gloomy realisation, the day out was marked by meeting an individual who was a prolific sportsperson, and beyond that, a humble fellow, and that’s how I’ll remember him. I’ll be waiting to see him next time to thank him for his extraordinary work. Am I a fan? Probably not of the “mad dog” Moody, as I never knew that part of his life, but as a person, I certainly admire him.
An appeal to end:
If you’ve read this far, I thought I could be cheeky and ask for some money. Although this blog is about Lewis, I must remind you of the purpose of the meet. It was for the families with children who are dealing with a brain tumour (not the children, but anyone in the household). Brain Tumour is one of the biggest cancer killer in the UK amongst children and its perils are not well publicised. Even the non-cancerous tumours, although termed benign by medical professionals, affect one’s abilities significantly and a large number of brain tumour survivors sustain a life-changing disability. Researches in diagnosing and treating brain tumours are underfunded. It’s organisations like The Brain Tumour Charity and Lewis Moody Foundation who are doing their utmost best to raise awareness, raise funds, facilitate research and support the affected families. Campaigns like Headsmart, started by The Brain Tumour Charity phenomenally reduced the diagnosing time for brain tumours in children. And The Lewis Moody Foundation is partnered with The Brain Tumour Charity fundraising and hosting family days, as well as support the Headsmart campaign.
So, here’s the deal. You can contribute to both of these fabulous charities doing pioneering work for Brain Tumour Research. You can make a voluntary contribution to either of the charities, or participate in a fundraising event, or if you are aware of families affected by a brain tumour, you can help them get in touch with The Brain Tumour Charity and The Lewis Moody Foundation. All these small measures will immensely help to all the families going through the ordeal, trying to coming to terms with this life-changing illness.