In an exclusive interview and photoshoot with HELLO! at their home in West London, actor Colin Salmon and his wife Fiona Hawthorne reveal for the first time how they have both battled life-threatening illnesses, as artist Fiona releases two extraordinary new books.
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Colin, who plays M's enigmatic right-hand man in several James Bond films, tells the magazine how he almost died of Covid-19.
"I felt as if I was slipping away," says the 59-year-old actor who fell ill on New Year's Eve after the entire family – his wife and four children - were struck down by the virus. "If I hadn't gone to hospital, I wouldn't be here now."
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Meanwhile, two years ago artist Fiona, whose work includes a portrait of the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge playing polo, was diagnosed with a rare lung condition, interstitial lung disease, that left her dependent on an oxygen tank.
The illness, which affects the lining of the lungs and makes it difficult for oxygen to enter the bloodstream, meant she was put on steroids and had chemotherapy. Doctors had already warned Fiona, 57, that her condition made her more vulnerable to Covid-19 and if she caught it, she could die.
"I felt flattened and had a thumping headache,” she says of contracting the virus. "Although it exacerbated my condition, I came through it."
Thankfully, she remains upbeat and busy. "I'm finding ways to live with it positively," says Fiona, who as well as being a painter and illustrator, plays in and co-runs the steel band UFO and organises art projects, such as for children affected by the Grenfell tragedy. "I don't want my illness to define me."
The dynamic mum-of-four is now showcasing her artwork based on her extraordinary experiences while living in Hong Kong in two stunning new books – a children's picture book called The Extraordinary Amazing Unbelievable Incredible Walled City of Kowloon, and hard back coffee table book, Drawing on the Inside: Kowloon Walled City 1985, which contains portraits of the characters who inhabited this mysterious place.
"For me and the people who lived there it wasn't the awful place it is often portrayed as," she says. "It was an industrious community and full of life. My aim is to share this extraordinary legacy with the next generation."
Proud Colin says, "Fiona is an inspiration, an example to us all. Her spirit is unstoppable."