WHEN Edward Stourton learned in early December, 2008, that he was being replaced on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme after nine years as a presenter, a parliamentary motion was tabled, demanding his reinstatement, and thousands of listeners called in to complain.
The saga ended happily with the esteemed journalist and broadcaster agreeing to report on foreign stories for the flagship news show, while developing his already distinguished career in other avenues.
He was, for example, afforded the time to write from June, 2009 until September last year, a fortnightly column in the Daily Telegraph recording his regular excursions with Kudo, his Springer spaniel.
The column – an instant hit with readers – forms the basis of a witty, charming and revealing book from this erudite commentator on life in Diary of Dog Walker which will be published by Doubleday on June 9.
And Stourton will certainly be a hot ticket for dog owners when he appears at the Borders Book Festival in the main marquee at Harmony Gardens, Melrose, on Thursday, June 16, at 9pm, to talk about the volume which is subtitled Time Spent Following a Lead.
And the 53-year-old, who joined the staff of ITN as a graduate trainee in 1979, follows many interest-ing and revealing leads as he muses on how well he knows Kudo – and how well the dog knows him.
Anyone who ever walks a dog will know what Stourton knows: that you can talk to anyone and anyone can talk to you ... about anything. What is more, while we may know that a dog is just a dog, we continue to allow ourselves to speak and think of our dogs as friends, as individuals with a full claim to our affections.
“The reward is that dog-walking becomes like reading a novel or watching a play,” reflects the author. “Disbelief is suspended and, for an hour or so, we are given licence to escape ordinary life.
“Fantasy flourishes and quite trivial moments in a dog’s life become a source of wonder to be laughed about or even worried over.”
Along the way, Stourton discovers himself exploring much bigger subjects – war, bravery, office politics, current affairs and the hard facts of life’s pecking order. All are given sudden levity and a new sanity when viewed through the prism of walking a dog.
Kudo apart, the BBF audience is sure to be fascinated by a broadcaster who was a founder member of Channel 4 News before joining the BBC as Paris correspondent in 1988. He returned to ITN as diplomatic editor in 1990 but was back at the BBC, becoming a household voice and face, as presenter of the One o’ Clock News from 1993 to 1999.
His final Today broadcast came in September 2009, and he has since joined the presenting teams of The World At One and The World This Weekend.
Diary of a Dog Walker is Stourton’s fifth work of non-fiction. A Roman Catholic with an extensive knowledge of his faith, he has written three books about his religion, including John Paul II: Man of History (2007).
Stourton will join a formidable cast of broadcasters and journalists in Melrose from June 16-19.
Apart from Michael Parkinson, whose Friday show sold out within hours of tickets going on sale, the festival boasts appearances from James Naughtie (like Stourton, a stalwart of the Today programme), Peter Snow (he of the famous election swingometer), Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark and BBC Scotland newsreader Sally Magnusson, who will talk about her latest book, Life of Pee. Also in the line-up is award-winning journalist Stephen McGinty, talking about his page-turner, Camp Z: The Secret Life of Rudolph Hess.