Lifestyle: My Place; Professor Nigel Lightfoot, Government Medic and Scientist, Expert on Chemical, Biological and Radio Nuclear Terrorism, Gives the Journal His My Place

Article excerpt

Byline: Interview carried out by Tom Walling.

NIGEL Lightfoot is Director of Emergency Response and head of the Influenza and Respiratory Viruses Programme Board at the Health Protection Agency.

He is an expert on chemical, biological and ra-dionuclear terrorism preparedness and response.

He is the expert UK delegate to the Global Health Security Action Group, the G8 Bioterrorism Working Group and the Health Security Committee of the European Commission.

He is a visiting professor to Cranfield University and provides expert input to several government departments.

Most recently he has been involved in the bird flu and foot-and-mouth incidents, and he advised on possible disease outbreaks during the recent floods.

Where do you live?

In Jesmond, in a house with roses covering the whole wall. I work in London.

How long have you lived there?

Since 1989 when I moved up from Taunton.

What is your dream home?

A castle in the country, or maybe just a modest, sunny house with some land so my horses can graze.

How do you get around (walk, drive, public transport, private jet)?

I walk if its not raining, which it usually is in this country! I use a 4x4 when I need to tow a horse box. I travel to London by plane, train or car and when in London walk or use taxis or buses.

What is your favourite part of the North-East?

The Tynedale countryside around Capheaton. It's good country for exercising the Tynedale hounds, it's where the opening meet is and there are some good jumps.

What is your favourite building in the region?

Brinkburn Priory, near Rothbury. It's set in a bend of the river Coquet, and so peaceful. It makes me think of what life must have been like for the monks.

What is the best holiday you've ever had?

Sailing from New Caledonia, in the South Pacific, to Australia and then up the Great Barrier Reef in a Swan 47 yacht. My wife, Nina and I sailed with my wife's nephew and his family who were doing a Malta to Australia voyage. This was the last leg. We explored New Caledonia thoroughly, seeing the rain forests and walking up Mont Panie. We then set sail for Australia in beautiful sunshine and a calm sea. The next day we were joined for a whole day by a school of whales. On the third day we sailed into a force nine gale with waves 40 feet high.

It was hairy to say the least but a Swan 47 footer is probably the strongest boat in the world. After three more days we came through it and realised that together we were safe. You begin to think that you survived because there is a purpose for your life.

What is your favourite thing in your home?

A painting of Anna Bolina. It is a copy of the painting by an unknown artist hanging in the National Portrait Gallery. I like this period in history and I feel particular empathy with Ann Boleyn.

If you could have one luxury, what would it be? …