Meyer’s catchphrase will be heard no more around Holby, but it’ll still come in handy for George Irving’s favourite hobby.

Being a genius TV doctor is a tough life. Poring over medical text books, brushing up on your overbearing bedside manner, sharpening your scalpel-like technique for dissecting hospital bureaucrats. It can all leave it’s mark on a man.

So George Irving, who appears as the humourless, but sexy, Anton Meyer in HOLBY CITY for the last time this week, is looking forward to lightening up and getting back to the things he’s missed since joining the long running drama when it began in the Autumn of 1998.

‘I’ve enjoyed all the medical stuff enormously because the body has a real fascination for me, too,’ he says. ‘I considered going to university to study one of the biology sciences.

‘And I’ve enjoyed the character. I’ve liked his sureness and his confidence. But when you’re playing someone like Meyer, you can’t just switch off when you go home, and I found that very difficult.

‘Even if you’re not in an episode, you have a script coming up and it goes around your head all the time. It’s been an intense experience.’

And that, says 48 year old George, has meant he’s had to put the rest of his life on hold – or, at least much of it. ‘You can’t make too many arrangements because they might have to be cancelled. You go out less and see your mates less.’

However, one hobby he has managed to maintain is walking, a past time he’s taken seriously for 20 years, almost as long as he’s been an actor. But not for George a leisurely stroll around the block…

‘I go for long walks, I go to Mount Everest,’ he chuckles. That was just before Christmas, last year. Along with 34 others, including former CASUALTY and HOLBY CITY actor Clive Mantle, George went on a charity trek to base camp at Mount Everest, climbing 18,500ft and raising ?22,000 for Hope and Homes for Children. ‘It’s the most physically difficult thing I’ve ever done. We trained for a year, but there’s no way of knowing how the altitude is going to affect you,’ he explains. And the cold. Don’t forget the cold. ‘One morning we woke up and it was -17 C in the tent. I had little icicles hanging from my nostrils. ‘Our highest point was 1,000ft above base camp and the view of Everest was extraordinary.’

George plans to take on another major expedition soon, and a walking holiday in Spain. But for now, he’s happy strolling in Kent, where he and his TV director wife, Jan Sergeant, have bought a second home, just 90 minutes from their place in London, which they share with their daughter, Lucy, 23.

As for work, he’s reluctant to jump straight into another long-running series. ‘I wouldn’t say ‘no’ on principle, but I’ve got to be careful. Meyer’s a hard act to follow.

‘At the moment, the uncertainty is terrific. It’s a great thought that it could be one of a number of things – who knows? I quite like, ‘Who knows?’ That’s what I’m happy with for now.’

MEYER’S MOMENTS

Alison Slade charts some of the highs and lows of the maverick medic’s career…

MAKING HIS MARK (January 1999) Meyer quickly asserts his authority. Kirstie Collins begs registrar Nick Jordan to let her watch Meyer perform a heart transplant. Nick’s response? ‘He makes Atilla the Hun look like Postman Pat.’

PLANE BRAVE (November 1999) Meyer leads the surgical team with an air of disdain, but when a medical emergency happens while he’s on board a plane at 30,000ft he’s a hero when he performs a Caesarean.

HEALTH SCARE (November 2000) Meyer is struck down with what he believes could be the symptoms of Motor Neurone Disease. Fortunately, tests prove negative.

UNDER THE KNIFE (November 2001) Rushing to an emergency, Meyer overtakes a Range Rover. The furious driver blocks Meyer’s car, gets out and, during the ensuing row, shoots him. Ric Griffin battles to save his life.

RISKY BUSINESS (August 2002) Meyer recommends pioneering heart surgery to the parents of a critically ill boy. Sam Kennedy secretly speaks to the parents about the dangers of the op. They decide to take the boy home but their son’s condition worsens. Meyer operates and the boy dies. Meyer finds out about Sam and suspends her, but she resigns and threatens to go to the press about using patients as ‘experiments’.

THE PARTING SHOT Meyer finds he’s also suspended over the case this week. He’s cleared but is told to put operation success statistics before lives. ‘My death rates will always look bad because patients come to me who are so ill no-one else will touch them,’ he snarls. He resigns for a new job in the US.

20 August 2002 – TV Times