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Tonight’s Who Do You Think You Are? features the family of Frank Gardner

FRANK Gardner is a BBC journalist who I have come to admire. Most know that 11 years ago he was left for dead in a Saudi Arabian gun attack, which killed his cameraman colleague Simon Cumbers, but Gardner survived and now uses a wheelchair. He was shot six times by al-Qaeda sympathisers, most missed his major organs but one hit his spinal nerves and Gardner was left partly paralysed in the legs. The Saudi Arabian government had insisted he used official minders, but they ran away once the firing started. The Saudi government promised compensation, but has never paid a penny. He needed 14 operations, seven months in hospital and months of rehabilitation to return to work in 2005. Gardner still sometimes reports from hotspots like Afghanistan[1] and Colombia but now tends to offer analysis from the studio.

Gardner’s advantage on others is that he served in the Territorial Army between 1984 and 1990 rose to the rank of captain. He also

worked as a marketing manager for Gulf Exports from 1984 to 1986 before switching to the BBC’s World Service. Talking to the Sunday Times about his decision to make the TV programme shown tonight he says: “Surviving a near-death experience does strange things to you. Undoubtedly, it stops you sweating a lot of small stuff. It can also make you surprisingly resilient. So I didn t expect to be moved by what I was to find out on my ancestral quest.

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“Initially, I signed up to honour my mum. She died last year aged 91 of liver cancer. She was an inspiring woman one of the first to get into the Foreign Office back in the 1940s, after she had won a scholarship to Cambridge. Until her death we spurred one another along in our endeavours to remain stoic. She would say that she couldn t feel sorry for herself given what I had been through in Saudi Arabia, while I felt that I could cope with the pain in my legs because of the gravity of her illness.”

His mother claimed that her family came over with the Normans. While Gardner attempts to go back that far, he discovers that his ten times great-grandfather Sir Michael Stanhope provides an insight into the gory goings-on in the Tudor court after being accesed of treason. His biggest surprise is to learn he is directly related to “one of the most central figures in British history”, his great-grandfather the eminent Victorian physician George Rolleston, who has a bust displayed in Oxford.

Eat Well for Less? (BBC1, 8pm)

CULINARY crusaders Gregg Wallace and Chris Bavin swing into action to help another family, this time visiting Clare and Richard in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, who are so busy with work and looking after their two young children that they have found themselves stuck in a rather unusual rut: seven years ago they devised a simple weekly meal plan Monday is pizza, Wednesday is spaghetti bolognese and so on and it hasn’t changed since. Not only this, but they always tend to buy big brands and premium supermarket ranges, which is an expensive way to shop for what has become a boring way to eat. Gregg and Chris are determined to help them but breaking the family’s habits isn’t going to be easy.

George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces (C4, 9pm)

OUR man from Wearside[2] meets a father-of-three who is building a campervan for less than 700, which is being constructed out of old CDs and vinyl records. A single dad is being renovating an old rig escape pod to make for home for himself and his sons on the water.

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“For a small build, you re probably only looking at three to four weeks of work, so sit down in front of the computer every two to three days, get out your receipts and total up the costs. Then you can make an informed decision about the materials and choices you can afford next,” George says.

Viv Hardwick

References

  1. ^ Afghanistan (www.thenorthernecho.co.uk)
  2. ^ Wearside (www.thenorthernecho.co.uk)

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