Alan Bennett offers update on health since open heart surgery

Alan Bennett has had to give up cycling and struggles to climb stairs – but refuses to install a stairlift in his home for “aesthetic reasons”.

The author and playwright detailed his worsening health since open heart surgery last year in his annual diary for the London Review Of Books, this year titled A Round Of Applause.

The 86-year-old, originally from Armley in Leeds, said he had difficulty climbing the stairs of his home in Primrose Hill, north London, due to arthritis and a number of recent falls.

Talking Heads
Talking Heads

He wrote that he had also given up cycling, a lifelong passion, and now barely manages a three-minute walk around his block using a walking stick.

Bennett apologised to readers for dwelling “so much on my physical incapacity”.

He added: “Farewell to the bike has to some extent meant farewell to the health that went with it, and my life is increasingly medicated.”

But writing about the stairlift, he quipped: “I never thought I’d say it, but I wish we had a stairlift (as famously advertised by Thora Hird).

“I come downstairs in the morning and don’t go back up until I go up for my bath before supper. All this has happened since I had to give up my bike.

“We won’t ever get a stairlift for aesthetic reasons, but how long I will be able to continue walking is an open question and a pressing one.”

His Talking Heads television monologues were revived by the BBC earlier this year, raising about £1 million for NHS charities.

Among the stars to appear in the adaptations were Martin Freeman, Jodie Comer and Imelda Staunton.

Bennett said: “I must cost the NHS a fortune, and I’m glad that through Talking Heads we were able to repay some of that.”

The History Boys writer has previously been treated for colon cancer and for an aneurysm, a swollen blood vessel, in his abdomen.