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Martyn Day: I found out I had a bald patch watching Parliament TV - I wish my mum had told me

Martyn Day MP

Martyn Day: I found out I had a bald patch watching Parliament TV - I wish my mum had told me

The SNP MP for Linlithgow & East Falkirk on discovering India and why no one should ignore the pain of indigestion.

What’s your earliest memory?

The only significant memory I have is being taken to the hospital and being held up at the window to see my baby sister Susan, who is four years younger than me. I must be able to remember things before I was four, but that’s the first significant memory that sticks in my mind.

What were you like at school?

I was, and still am, a relatively quiet person. I was quite the bookie type. I wouldn’t say I was a particularly great student, but I did enjoy going to school. My house now is littered with books, mainly history books and biographies.

Is there any particular period in history that you’re interested in?

I love all parts of history. Since I’ve been in parliament my ability to find time to read has gone way down so most of what I’ve read recently has been relatively modern 20th century stuff. I also have an interest in Asian affairs. My partner Nadia is from India and, from a historical point of view, I’ve always had an interest in the Gandhi and Nehru period, but now it’s current affairs because of the family connections.

You went to Bangladesh earlier this year – what was that about?

One of the things that interested me in Bangladesh was its independence struggle. They had a pretty miserable, very violent war then declared independence on what was my birthday – 26 March 1971. I thought I should know more about this country as it’s the same age as me. I went to an event in parliament and that led to being invited across to do election monitoring. I had a very interesting visit – the election was not contested by the opposition, but the processes were very good.

Who would be your dream dinner date?

There are so many historical figures I would love to chat with that it would end up being a massive banquet but I’d only get to speak to the two people beside me. I think with almost every historical figure I would find something I would want to chat to them about, but I think the most interesting modern figure would have been Muhammad Ali. He did everything: political activist, civil rights campaigner, major sports person. I’ve even got his record. The guy could do anything. I think he would have been a really entertaining dinner guest.

What’s your greatest fear?

Flying. I’m one of the worst fliers. And needles. It’s a choice between the two. 

What’s the worst thing anyone’s ever said to you?

I’ve been introduced on a few platforms as a Labour MP.

What’s your most treasured possession?

We have a house filled with clutter and despite that I would say I’m probably not that materialistic. I go through fads – I like gadgets and I’ve been getting into photography. I dabbled in photography in my youth, when I did home developing and stuff, and I’ve started getting back into it. I’m getting better at doing videos to communicate with constituents, which I started during lockdown. Some of the first ones are dire. My office manager said it was like watching Rikki Fulton. I never start them with ‘Hu-llo’ any more.

What do you dislike about your appearance?

I didn’t know I had a bald patch until I saw myself on Parliament TV. Nobody told me. To be fair, my mother always told me to use sun lotion there, but she should have been a bit more blunt.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?

I have a sweet tooth. Multiple sweet teeth, in fact. I’m just finishing off a box of Indian sweets, which are nice, although I’ve probably already had more than enough to kill a diabetic. My partner brought them back from India and they’ll go off in a few days so I’ve got that justification.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

There’s so much I would love to see that I’d be spoilt for choice, but I am definitely a creature of the late 20th century. I like my modern comforts. I remember growing up with single-glazed windows as a wee boy and I really don’t fancy going back further than that. I think I’d probably be more interested in going forward to see what the future holds.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?

Just be yourself at all times. Every other person’s role’s already taken so you might as well just get on with who you are and be true to yourself. You’ll make your own mistakes but you can live with that. If you make somebody else’s you’ll kick yourself later on.

What skills should every person have?

Just be decent, be a good neighbour and try to leave whoever you encounter in a happier state than you found them. There’s a great Gandhi quote, which is a genuine Gandhi quote, unlike most of them. He said: “You can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” I think that sums up the whole ethos of life.

What’s the worst pain you’ve ever experienced?

That was fairly recent, and I hope to God I never repeat it. At the end of October 2022, I managed to burst my gallbladder. I was rushed into hospital for an emergency operation. I wouldn’t wish that pain on my worst enemy. I tell everybody now that I had two years of warning signs but I ignored them. Not everybody gets the same warning signs, but for me it felt like indigestion, but it was stones going through. I probably cost the NHS a lot more than if I’d just gone to get that checked so I tell everyone not to ignore the signs.

What’s your top film or TV programme of all time? 

This has been one of my favourite films since I was a teenager and still is to this day. I watch it once or twice a year. It’s Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, which is an amazing film. It has a great cast, is really well acted and the characters go through change to find decent values.

What was your best holiday ever?

One of my favourite destinations has always been the Czech Republic, but I haven’t been since 2013. I suspect it could be a long time before I do go back because there are now so many parts of India that I need to visit. I can’t say Nadia and I have had a great holiday in India yet because the first time I was there we got caught up with the terrible floods that happened in 2018. Other visits have been for family hospital appointments, so it’s never been a relaxed, ‘let’s go and just enjoy the scenery’ kind of thing. I look forward to the holiday I’ve not properly had there yet.

What was the last book you read?

I’m just about to finish a biography of Emmet Dalton. He was a fascinating figure. He was a young Irishman who enlisted in the British Army in the First World War. He returned home and joined the IRA and in the Anglo Irish War was on the free state side. He left the Free State Army as a general at the age of 24 and went to work in the English film industry. The bit I was really interested in was him returning to Ireland to set up the Irish film industry but that’s just a tiny bit of the book. That just means I’ll have to buy another book.

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