While studying English literature at Oxford, Colvin visited his father at his latest posting in Mongolia for summer holidays. Colvin's stories of Mongolia and its nomadic people reminded me of my own travels to Ulan Bator via the Trans-Siberian railway.
Colvin was an old-school reporter, with a solid credo: 'don't make up your mind before you've gathered the facts'. He learned on the job as a cadet covering events that shaped Australia in the 1970s and 1980s like the Dismissal, the Granville train disaster and the Hilton Hotel bombing. He describes the tape recorders, reel-to-real machines, editing suites and difficulties of reporting in the pre-Internet era.
My dad was a journalist and foreign correspondent. Colvin's life as a reporter reminded me so much of my dad, that I felt waves of reminiscence as I was reading. Whether Colvin described his assignment during the Iran hostage crisis, the trial of Klaus Barbie, interviewing Lech Walesa, or events in London in the late 1960s/early 1970s, I thought of the stories my dad had told me of his own experiences in the fourth estate.
After covering the major events of recent decades, Colvin's career as a foreign correspondent was cut short by a rare and devastating illness contracted on assignment in 1994. Later, Colvin became a beloved presenter of PM on Radio National, an advocate for organ donation, and amassed an enviable Twitter following.
From time to time I would see Mark Colvin present at events in Sydney. The last time I saw him live was at the 2015 Festival of Dangerous Ideas, when he interviewed the newly released Peter Greste about his year in an Egyptian prison, the decline of journalism as a career, and the vital importance of a free press. I didn't realise how little time he had left with us.
Mark Colvin died on 11 May 2017. I heard about his death from Colvin himself in a beautiful tweet: "It's all been bloody marvellous." That about sums up my feelings after reading his memoir - bloody marvellous!