Viciously mugged in France, Jan Leeming has misplaced none of her indomitable spirit

First-rate fool (her phrases) or no longer, Jan Leeming is no one’s idiot. Every week in the past, the previous BBC newsreader, 80, was once rugby tackled to the bottom in a ‘horrid’ assault via a mugger in a sleepy French village. 

These days, there’s a deep gash on her proper arm and dreadful bruising to her hip and thigh that make you surprise how not anything was once damaged. 

‘HRT,’ she says airily. ‘If I’d no longer been on HRT for 37 years I’m slightly certain I might have damaged an arm the way in which I fell.’ 

Cling on, Jan. You’ve been on HRT for just about 4 a long time? Isn’t that, properly, dangerous, specifically given the hyperlinks between extended utilization and an higher breast most cancers possibility? 

‘It’s my existence and I wish to reside it. Give me possibly ten wholesome years then beam me up Scotty,’ she says in any such exact RP accessory that’s hardly ever heard at the BBC nowadays. ‘HRT prevents osteoporosis. A vulnerable, fragile 80-year-old girl would have suffered much more injury than I’ve.’ 

Feisty: Jan Leeming refuses to be cowed after a nasty mugging in France

Feisty: Jan Leeming refuses to be cowed after an unpleasant mugging in France

She gifts a lovely excellent argument. Whether or not it’s all the way down to HRT, ‘excellent genes’ or sheer bloody-mindedness, there’s no denying Jan is neither vulnerable nor fragile. ‘I will’t recall to mind myself as an previous girl,’ she says.  ‘I’ve labored arduous to stay wholesome and narrow.’ 

She provides: ‘I began yoga remaining September. I’m two times the age of almost everyone else within the magnificence and may do maximum of it. 

‘Even if when other people inform me I’ve were given a phenomenal determine, I inform them “sure, however undress me and also you’ll see I would like ironing”. I quilt my fingers however, my goodness, that’s an issue. Check out purchasing garments with just a little sleeve.’ 

However sufficient of sartorial issues — again to that assault. 

Jan, who’s gallivanting round this beautiful a part of southern France with the power of an opening -year scholar, was once visiting an vintage marketplace within the sleepy village of Mouriès, Provence, with pals when she was once attacked.

 ‘A youngish guy , shorter than me — I’m 5 toes 3 in, I’ve reduced in size — was once loitering with regards to an ATM my pals have been the use of. He wore a Covid masks however it was once beneath his nostril. My good friend introduced to let him pass first, however he stated: “No, you”. 

Jan Leeming's first wedding to John Staple in 1961

Jan Leeming’s first wedding ceremony to John Staple in 1961

‘He requested if I spoke French and I instructed him I perceive slightly properly, however don’t discuss it as properly. He prolonged his left hand as despite the fact that to shake mine. I assumed I mustn’t be offish. I’m a pleasant particular person. I communicate to grocery store check-out other people. I communicate to other people on trains. I chat. 

‘I assumed it peculiar that he’d introduced his left hand however, like a primary fool, I took it. All I will take note is that it was once as though his leg went between my legs and he wrestled me to the bottom. I feel it was once a judo transfer or a rugby take on. I assume I will have to have fallen on my proper arm. 

‘He attempted to drag my bag however it kind of fell below me. My watch got here off however I put my surrender it. I couldn’t imagine it was once going down. I simply couldn’t. One minute I used to be status up, the following I used to be at the flooring.’ 

Jan confesses she was once ‘a bit of shaken. All of it came about so briefly’. Her good friend moved against him. There was once an electrical blue getaway automobile. Her assailant fled. 

‘I appeared down at my arm which was once lovely terrible. A passer-by — a really nice girl — stated in French, “I’ve a primary support equipment in my automobile. I will be able to pass and get it”. Bless her. 

‘Everybody stated I will have to pass to the police. I stated, “No. I’m all proper. I’ve an unpleasant gash however not anything’s damaged”. I’m no longer a drama queen and know what it’s like going to the police anyplace. What I truly sought after was once a cup of tea or a brandy.

Jan Leeming and second husband Jeremy Gilchrist married in 1972

Jan Leeming and 2d husband Jeremy Gilchrist married in 1972

‘In fact the gendarmerie was once just a few yards away, however it was once close. When my pals phoned the quantity it went to answerphone, so we were given within the automobile and went to the drugstore. 

‘The pharmacist sought after to provide the physician, however I confident her I used to be fantastic. She disinfected [the gash] and put an enormous this sort of on.’ Jan waves her arm, appearing off a big plaster. ‘I had to shop for the field, which prices so much. 

‘We got here house [to her friends’ house in Provence], I made the meal — I couldn’t in fact lower issues however supervised the whole lot — had a couple of glasses of rosé. It was once a laugh and I slept really well. So far as I used to be involved that was once that.’ 

Jan’s wound has in the end stopped bleeding however the bruising from her attacker’s tight grip round her arm continues to be black and blue. 

‘On occasion, I close my eyes and I see that guy attacking me,’ she says. ‘It’s no longer going to provide me sleepless nights. It’s no longer going to make me in poor health, even if I will be able to be extra cautious than I’ve been previously and I’m no longer going to make use of an outdoor ATM once more. 

‘I assume I’ve at all times had a energy which I didn’t truly recognise. Many of us have known as me a survivor. I used to suppose it was once an insult, however it will possibly in fact be a praise.’ 

Jan Leeming with her third husband Patrick Lunt, the father of her son Jonathan

Jan Leeming together with her 3rd husband Patrick Lunt, the daddy of her son Jonathan

Certainly. This isn’t the primary time the feisty Ms Leeming has observed off muggers. In 1987, whilst on the BBC, she was once attacked via 3 intruders who threw ammonia into her face as they attempted to take her purse. She ran ‘screaming’ — or so stories instructed — into the newsroom, incomes the sobriquet ‘Screaming Leeming’, which didn’t forged the Company in a excellent mild. 

‘That was once nasty,’ she says. ‘They sprayed me with acid and lower my bag however I didn’t run into the newsroom screaming. I used to be just a little breathless however I’m no longer a panicky particular person. I used to be very, very calm. Like the opposite day, I checked out my arm and simply idea, “Oh, I am hoping it doesn’t pass septic”.’

Jan suits this interview in between lunch with pals and aperitifs prior to dinner. She has had, ‘one hell of a morning’ having spent maximum of it at a police station the place she was once interviewed about her ‘horrid revel in’. ‘I knew it might be hours of my vacation,’ she says. ‘However, thank goodness, this beautiful younger gendarme was once completely sensible in English. 

‘I took a map. You realize I’m very observant and idea, ‘that can save time’. However, in fact, it’s the police they usually’re very ponderous. You’ve were given to verify the whole lot is correct. Then I needed to learn the deposition in French. 

‘I’m no longer a silly particular person. I’ve an enormous quantity of not unusual sense. I wouldn’t park in a gloomy position but if anyone, who gave the impression OK, is providing a hand it might had been churlish to not take it.’ She shakes her head. 

‘Hell will freeze over prior to they to find them. ‘I don’t like the way in which the arena goes. It’s one of the crucial causes I don’t watch the inside track that frequently. It depresses me. It makes me really feel the arena is only one terrible position and the whole lot is doom, gloom and crisis. 

‘It isn’t. You to find kindnesses, you to find niceness, you to find good looks each day in case you search for it. God is aware of how however I’ve had 475,000 hits [on Twitter since the attack]. 

Former Red Arrows pilot Eric Steenson was Jan's fourth husband

Former Pink Arrows pilot Eric Steenson was once Jan’s fourth husband

‘Dozens have introduced me counselling. I don’t want counselling. That is existence and also you get on with it. I’m fantastic however I do wish to get throughout how beautiful other people may also be and say [to those who have messaged] thanks very a lot for his or her love and heat. It sends excellent karma to me and, in fact, I don’t wish to put somebody off coming right here. 

‘My pals normally invite me each and every two years. I like the way of living right here. The French could make a ceremonial dinner out of not anything, however they devour so overdue. We began dinner the opposite night time at 10pm.’ 

Jan is staying with two pals she’s identified for just about part a century of their captivating village house with regards to the centre of Salon. 

She fell in love with this a part of France within the Seventies prior to it was once ever stylish. And so started an affaire de coeur that has outlasted 5 marriages and goodness is aware of what number of liaisons. She tells of those instances in her massively entertaining podcast sequence Addicted To Love. These days Jan is on her personal and has been for the reason that age of 60. 

‘I’ve had an overly, very wholesome intercourse existence,’ she says. ‘But it surely was once romance I used to be on the lookout for. For those who’d instructed me that after I used to be 60 I’d be by myself for ever, I feel I’d have jumped off a cliff, however I’ve were given used to it. ‘What other people don’t see about me is I’m in fact very, very, insecure,’ she says. 

‘I care very a lot what other people take into consideration me. I am getting so offended when it’s, “What’s this harridan executed that no guy remains together with her”? Each and every unmarried one in all my males has been a womaniser — each and every unmarried one — and you’ll’t stay a person if he has wandering eyes.

‘So far as I’m involved, 3 of my males mattered,’ she says. ‘The primary (BBC sound engineer John Staple, whom she wed at 19) I married to break out from house. He was once two times my age and, inside six months, was once bonking his ex-girlfriend. I walked out prior to I fell pregnant. In order that one I don’t rely and the remaining (trainer Chris Russell, a wedding that led to divorce in 2001 after 4 years and for whom she moved from Buckinghamshire to Kent) I don’t rely as that was once a rebound. 

‘However I cherished Jeremy (property agent Jeremy Gilchrist). I cherished Patrick (Patrick Lunt, the daddy of her handiest kid Jonathan who’s now a ‘strapping, nice giant 6ft 3in, 41- year-old’) and I cherished Eric (Eric Steenson, a former Pink Arrows supervisor to whom she was once married for seven years). The ones males that mattered have lengthy since died. 

‘I want when I used to be more youthful I’d met the suitable guy, had a few kids and now we had the satisfaction of grandchildren. Jonathan doesn’t need kids, so I by no means could have them. 

‘I like loving anyone and I like to be cherished. I’d like any individual who’s there for Christmas. Anyone to return to my dinner events, pour the wine, pass away for the weekend. Anyone to move on vacation with. 

‘Even if my pals are well-educated and we do glorious issues — pass to church buildings and cathedrals — they’re so much slower. My father used to mention, “you’ve were given ants for your pants. You by no means sit down nonetheless”, and I’m nonetheless a child at center. 

‘I wish to be excited. I wish to do adventurous issues. I’m certain if I have been to reside my existence once more I’d make the similar errors or I’d make errors in several techniques. I’m very impulsive. 

‘As they are saying, “fools rush in the place angels worry to tread”.’ With which Jan dashes off for the night time’s leisure — and no matter adventures will come subsequent.

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