An heroic life

So many stories. While visiting our book printers in Cornwall on Friday, I was struck (not for the first time) just how many books are being published every week, on so many various subjects and in so many styles.

Jo and I were sitting in the sales director’s office looking at the various titles piled on top of the filing cabinets by the wall. It was then I noticed a large pile of hardbacks carrying the distinctive covers of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series of adventure stories for children.

It reminded me… Back in 198, I either wrote or, more likely, edited an obituary about a recently deceased Syrian-born physician (Roger Altounyan) on whom one of the characters in the stories (young Roger Walker) was based.

The fictional Roger Walker was involved in many engaging and beautifully-written adventures around the Lake District and Norfolk Broads.

But beyond that, the real Roger Altounyan lead a life that was, if anything, even more amazing.

As well as becoming exceedingly accomplished bomber pilot and trainer of other pilots during World War II, Roger went on to discover a treatment for asthma and to invent the Spinhaler inhaling device (inspired by the vibration of the propellers in the aircraft he flew).

What I found remarkable about his story is that Roger Altounyan self-induced more than 600, often frighteningly severe, asthma attacks on himself in order to self-test his asthma treatment.

There were dozens of stories printed between the covers of the books piled up in the sales director’s office, but there could not have been many that were more heroic or inspiring than the one that wasn’t there at all.