A day in the life with Nigel

HOPPING into the NewsMail car on the way to a job was always an experience with Nigel.

One of my earliest memories I have of working with him involved a near-death experience.

That’s probably a bit dramatic, but that’s how I remember it anyway.

We were covering a raging bushfire at Kinkuna National Park, had met up with the rural firefighters quite close to the blaze for a chat and were on our way back to the office after taking plenty of photos.

I can’t remember whose decision it was, but we made a slight detour and ended being bogged in bull dust.

That doesn’t sound so bad, but when we looked up in front of us the fire was close, very close, about 100 metres or so away and heading towards us.

I did what seemed rational to me at the time and freaked out. I had only been at the NewsMail for a short amount of time and all I could think of was that even if we escaped, the newspaper’s car would be burnt to a crisp and we’d be left with a lot of explaining to do.

A few seconds must have passed into my mini-breakdown when I turned to noticed Nigel’s passenger door was swung open, with Nigel nowhere in sight.

Now I was really panicked. I hopped out of the car, the bull dust swallowing my feet, all the way up to my knees.

“Where the bloody hell is Nigel?” is all I could think as I looked down the road and the bush surrounding us.

Suddenly, almost Indiana Jones like, Nigel came bursting out of the bushes with tree branches under both arms and a steely look of determination.

Without breaking stride he ran to the back of the car, placed the branches underneath the back tyres, jumped into the car and ripped it into the reverse.

The branches had worked — the car was back on solid land and we were able drive out of the National Park.

When we were driving out of the park Nigel asked if I was all right. After reclaiming by breath and steadying my heart rate down, I said yes.

He looked over and said: “That was a bit of fun wasn’t it?” and started laughing.

That’s what I’ll always remember Nigel for — his ability to always make you feel good and to make any bad situation seem suddenly better.

He wasn’t just a charismatic, friendly bloke — he was also very professional on the job and took his art seriously.

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