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Arti Halai is the host of Five Star Insights podcast series

Five Star Insights – Mary May Robertson

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<p>My
guest on Five Star Insights this month is Professor Emeritus of Neuropsychiatry
at University College London, Mary May Robertson. She is a leading pioneer and expert
on Tourette’s syndrome and has inspired a generation of specialists in this
field internationally.</p>
<p>Mary
was born as an eleventh generation South African. She credits her inspiring
teacher, Dr FD Pascoe as the main reason she went into psychiatry. As a medic,
she got to know Professor Christian Barnard and watched a heart transplant –
not many people can say that! A passion for travel she spent a year as a ship’s
doctor, first on a transatlantic yacht race and then completing a global
circumnavigation under sail in 1976, before beginning her distinguished career.  She came to the UK in 1978 aged 30.  </p>
<p>She
was the first woman to receive a Doctor of Science in Medicine at the University
of Cape Town in 2006. Always one to give back, Mary has fully funded a medicine
scholarship there and awarded two prizes annually for twelve years. She has
been the recipient of numerous awards including three Life Time Achievement
Awards. </p>
<p>In
advocacy, Mary played a key part in forming the UK Tourette Syndrome
Association in 1980 and led the way for the formation of the European Society
for the Study of Tourette Syndrome, which has become a thriving organisation. </p>
<p>Mary enjoys
opera, poetry, photography and tending to her beloved garden. </p>
Location
<p>Knowing
about Mary’s passion for travel and that she had voyaged around the world, I
started by asking about her choice of location.</p>
<p>Mary
spoke with passion about her love for where she was born, South Africa and said
that was her dream holiday location. She had done about 30 DIY safari’s with
family and friends but had never seen the Big 5 together in any one safari. She
also spoke about landing a dream location, in the Seychelles in 1974 for a
three month locum after she had newly qualified as a doctor. She remembers
vividly her bedroom facing the Indian Ocean and the wreck of a sailing ship,
The Isle of Farqhuar.. Mary said she found ‘pure peace’ at the top of an 85 ft mast
during her sailing trip around the world. “It was sensational looking down at
the dolphins, porpoises, sea gull waves and the ocean.” She says she can’t talk
about location without mentioning London where she has lived for more than
forty years. She loves that everything is so close by, the infrastructure and
she knows the locals in the shops by name. She says it feels like she is surrounded
by a ‘social community.’ London is her home now and this is where she will
always be.</p>
Cuisine  
<p>Interestingly,
Mary’s choice of cuisine is also inspired by her travels.</p>
<p>She
chooses Italian. Mary spent three months in Italy staying with a cardiologist
and his family early in her career and fell in love with Italy and everything
to do with it including the food and language. Surprisingly, her favourite
Italian dish is steak and she says “they are very good with fish too.” She says
“her friends are such good cooks that I wouldn’t dare cook in front of them,
unless supervised.” However, her standard best dishes to make are roast chicken
and vegetables. Something she grew up having in South Africa with her family,
even at Christmas time. She says she had a simple upbringing, good food made
from fresh ingredients “meat and two veg” but rarely dessert. The family ate
together when they could and today dinner with friends is often at each other’s
houses rather than at large restaurants. </p>
Music
<p>Staying
with Mary’s love of all things Italian and she is a huge opera fan.</p>
<p>She
was given her first opera book at the age of 10, something she still treasures.
When I ask her if opera is for everyone, especially young children, she replies
an appreciation for this kind of music depends of parent’s background and
musical choices. She had to wait until she came to London in her 30’s to be
able to see real live opera. The tenor is her favourite voice and she admits to
being a “serial faller in love with tenors” having known three generations of
them. They include the greats like Carlo Bergonzi, Placido Domingo and Joseph
Calleja. Her favourite operatic sopranos include Jesseye Norman, Joan
Sutherland and Ermonela Jaho among others. She says “I am a Verdi lady” but
also likes and appreciates other opera like Puccini, Donizetti, Rossini…the
list goes on.  She likes popular music
too and remembers fondly seeing Cliff Richard in concert with her mother in
South Africa in the 1960s and Freddy Mercury and Queen at Wembley in the 1980s.
As a medical student she sang in a group called The Medeecos where they sang
The Seekers songs (from Australia). Years later, she shed tears of joy when she
went to the Royal Albert Hall for the Seekers’ final farewell concert. </p>
Literature
<p>Given
Mary’s academic background she loves the written word and has also had a lot of
work published, but I want to know what sort of literature she enjoys reading.</p>
<p>Mary
likes “factual work but not novels.” She would recommend Jock of the Bushveld by
James Percy Fitzpatrick which she read as a child. She spent some time in
Namibia in 2017 and enjoyed reading books about the history and culture of the
place. Mary has about 150 autobiographies, many of them signed. Amongst those
she favours are Nelson Mandela and Musa Nggungwana. Mary also recently met Dr
Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut in space and enjoyed her
autobiography “Seize the Moment.” Science has always fascinated her and Mary
recently completed a dissertation on perfume and opera, achieving a
distinction. She says “there is so much knowledge, history, insight and
enjoyment to be gained from reading.”</p>
Art
<p>Our
final section brings us to art.</p>
<p>Mary
says she likes South African artists and paintings for example Tinus de jonghe,
Irma Stern, Barbara Tyrell, Selepe to name a few. However, “if I won the Euro
millions I would chose March Chagall’s MOMA painting, I and the Village. It is
my all time favourite.” She loves the use of colour and how full of life it is.
Her home is decorated with prints, paintings and framed photographs. Mary has a
great eye for photography and is an avid photographer, taking many pictures
including those of the moon. She is a member of the Astronomer’s club near
Regents Park.  </p>
<p>Don’t
forget to tune into the Five Star Insights podcast.</p>

My guest on Five Star Insights this month is Professor Emeritus of Neuropsychiatry at University College London, Mary May Robertson. She is a leading pioneer and expert on Tourette’s syndrome and has inspired a generation of specialists in this field internationally.

Mary was born as an eleventh generation South African. She credits her inspiring teacher, Dr FD Pascoe as the main reason she went into psychiatry. As a medic, she got to know Professor Christian Barnard and watched a heart transplant – not many people can say that! A passion for travel she spent a year as a ship’s doctor, first on a transatlantic yacht race and then completing a global circumnavigation under sail in 1976, before beginning her distinguished career.  She came to the UK in 1978 aged 30.  

She was the first woman to receive a Doctor of Science in Medicine at the University of Cape Town in 2006. Always one to give back, Mary has fully funded a medicine scholarship there and awarded two prizes annually for twelve years. She has been the recipient of numerous awards including three Life Time Achievement Awards.

In advocacy, Mary played a key part in forming the UK Tourette Syndrome Association in 1980 and led the way for the formation of the European Society for the Study of Tourette Syndrome, which has become a thriving organisation.

Mary enjoys opera, poetry, photography and tending to her beloved garden.

Location

Knowing about Mary’s passion for travel and that she had voyaged around the world, I started by asking about her choice of location.

Mary spoke with passion about her love for where she was born, South Africa and said that was her dream holiday location. She had done about 30 DIY safari’s with family and friends but had never seen the Big 5 together in any one safari. She also spoke about landing a dream location, in the Seychelles in 1974 for a three month locum after she had newly qualified as a doctor. She remembers vividly her bedroom facing the Indian Ocean and the wreck of a sailing ship, The Isle of Farqhuar.. Mary said she found ‘pure peace’ at the top of an 85 ft mast during her sailing trip around the world. “It was sensational looking down at the dolphins, porpoises, sea gull waves and the ocean.” She says she can’t talk about location without mentioning London where she has lived for more than forty years. She loves that everything is so close by, the infrastructure and she knows the locals in the shops by name. She says it feels like she is surrounded by a ‘social community.’ London is her home now and this is where she will always be.

Cuisine 

Interestingly, Mary’s choice of cuisine is also inspired by her travels.

She chooses Italian. Mary spent three months in Italy staying with a cardiologist and his family early in her career and fell in love with Italy and everything to do with it including the food and language. Surprisingly, her favourite Italian dish is steak and she says “they are very good with fish too.” She says “her friends are such good cooks that I wouldn’t dare cook in front of them, unless supervised.” However, her standard best dishes to make are roast chicken and vegetables. Something she grew up having in South Africa with her family, even at Christmas time. She says she had a simple upbringing, good food made from fresh ingredients “meat and two veg” but rarely dessert. The family ate together when they could and today dinner with friends is often at each other’s houses rather than at large restaurants.

Music

Staying with Mary’s love of all things Italian and she is a huge opera fan.

She was given her first opera book at the age of 10, something she still treasures. When I ask her if opera is for everyone, especially young children, she replies an appreciation for this kind of music depends of parent’s background and musical choices. She had to wait until she came to London in her 30’s to be able to see real live opera. The tenor is her favourite voice and she admits to being a “serial faller in love with tenors” having known three generations of them. They include the greats like Carlo Bergonzi, Placido Domingo and Joseph Calleja. Her favourite operatic sopranos include Jesseye Norman, Joan Sutherland and Ermonela Jaho among others. She says “I am a Verdi lady” but also likes and appreciates other opera like Puccini, Donizetti, Rossini…the list goes on.  She likes popular music too and remembers fondly seeing Cliff Richard in concert with her mother in South Africa in the 1960s and Freddy Mercury and Queen at Wembley in the 1980s. As a medical student she sang in a group called The Medeecos where they sang The Seekers songs (from Australia). Years later, she shed tears of joy when she went to the Royal Albert Hall for the Seekers’ final farewell concert.

Literature

Given Mary’s academic background she loves the written word and has also had a lot of work published, but I want to know what sort of literature she enjoys reading.

Mary likes “factual work but not novels.” She would recommend Jock of the Bushveld by James Percy Fitzpatrick which she read as a child. She spent some time in Namibia in 2017 and enjoyed reading books about the history and culture of the place. Mary has about 150 autobiographies, many of them signed. Amongst those she favours are Nelson Mandela and Musa Nggungwana. Mary also recently met Dr Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut in space and enjoyed her autobiography “Seize the Moment.” Science has always fascinated her and Mary recently completed a dissertation on perfume and opera, achieving a distinction. She says “there is so much knowledge, history, insight and enjoyment to be gained from reading.”

Art

Our final section brings us to art.

Mary says she likes South African artists and paintings for example Tinus de jonghe, Irma Stern, Barbara Tyrell, Selepe to name a few. However, “if I won the Euro millions I would chose March Chagall’s MOMA painting, I and the Village. It is my all time favourite.” She loves the use of colour and how full of life it is. Her home is decorated with prints, paintings and framed photographs. Mary has a great eye for photography and is an avid photographer, taking many pictures including those of the moon. She is a member of the Astronomer’s club near Regents Park.  

Don’t forget to tune into the Five Star Insights podcast.

Arti worked as a television presenter, producer and reporter for some of the UK’s largest organisations like the BBC, ITV, ITN News Channel, Carlton, LWT and Mirror Group during her fifteen year career in the media. She fronted the regional bulletins for ITV’s Central News across the Midlands for eight years. During her media career Arti covered everything from the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and 911, to doing critical reviews of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) and the European Parliament. She explored the rise of India and Pakistan as nuclear powers, covered the regeneration of the South Bank and did previews of the Tate Modern and the London Eye. She has interviewed politicians, entrepreneurs, business leaders, entertainers, academics, sports people and members of the public, always listening to them and trying to bring out the best in them. Arti is an investor and co-founder of the Fleet Street Group which includes a PR agency, Fleet Street Communications, a digital design agency, Grin Consultancy and a consulting and training business, Fleet Street Consulting. Fleet Street Group offers services that help businesses grow through the power of communications.   The group works across a variety of sectors including hospitality and leisure, B2B, professional services, retail, charities, education, IT, media, food and drinks and financial services and works with some of the world’s leading brands. As a consultant, Arti advises and offers training on presentation, media, crisis communications, personal branding, and reputation management working with clients both in the UK and abroad. She is also an Executive Coach working with CEO’s, MD’s, entrepreneurs and senior leadership teams.  She designs and delivers bespoke masterclasses and programmes combining both the right mindset and practical skills required to achieve the client’s goals.  Her key area’s of expertise include Presentation skills, Media Training, Crisis Communications, Reputation Management, Personal Branding and Executive Coaching. Arti is also an accomplished writer and author. Arti’s first book, ‘Positivity’ was published by The HotHive in 2009. In 30 simple lessons the book shows you the way to lead a fulfilling and enjoyable life. It focuses on what you secretly know or are learning about but aren’t putting into practice. In a nutshell we are quick to forget key ideas, thoughts, experiences and lessons that we use on a daily basis. Yet it is these things that make us who we are and make our life what it is.  She also wrote the Presentation Training Diploma Manual for Aljazeera’s Media Training and Development Centre which is headquartered in Doha in Qatar. The manual is used as the foundation for all the centre’s TV presenting courses.  She has written forewords for books including Women of Spirit Volume 2 by Susie Mackie and she is currently a columnist and podcast host for Sovereign Magazine. 

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