When the medics checked him over we all knew. Here was a man who'd ruled with a grin, and now bore a humiliated grimace. Yes, Tony Blair - Britain's Prime Minister, George Bush's greatest ally – has been feeling the pace.
The ever-smiling youthful looks went weeks ago. He's been hospitalised for a heart murmur, treated for mysterious stomach pains, demonised for his part in the Iraq war, and talked of – openly – as a politician on his way out.
Mr. Blair's future looks bad: In January a judicial report will be published here about the death of a Government scientist. Dr. David Kelly killed himself because he didn't believe Blair's claims that Saddam Hussein could launch weapons of mass destruction in just 45 minutes. Dr. Kelly slashed his wrists when the Government leaked his name. Some of the blame could land at the Prime Minister's door.
Then he's got his own normally-loyal legislators ganging up against him. Blair wants to make college students pay much more for their education. His Labour party colleagues are incandescent with rage. They still intend to try and stop him. Thus the Leader who was so much loved – so popular here and in your country – has had to watch his fortunes fall, and it's taken its toll.
This year Tony Blair got older before our eyes. The grey hairs multiplied. The gaunt lines spoke volumes about the pressures of power. He tries to disguise it, more and more frequently, with make-up - whenever the cameras are near him. But it is still painfully obvious.
And then, at the weekend, that call came through.
The news began to sink in. The implications fired up his adrenalin. Iraq's most wanted, most reviled dictator had been captured. Suddenly the spring returned to Tony Blair's tired step. One man out of a hole in Iraq - seems to have got OUR man, out of HIS hole, right here.
By Ed Boyle