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Humiliation during National Service


Travelling after the war was a huge adventure
Brian Sewell Writer
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[Q] Would you have gone to the Rodin Museum in Paris and had a look at that, or…?

Well, lots of… we were a very small student body. There were only 12 new undergraduates in my year, and that was fairly standard. But there were students who, because they were that much older, and they been about a bit, had rather more money than I did. I was still managing on pocket money. And so they could do it. Bear in mind that it was infinitely cheaper. When I made my first journey of exploration to Italy, it cost £35 from the moment I left London to rather more than four weeks later... I came back. That’s what the traveling and the expenses cost, so you didn’t need that much money to, sort of, cross to Paris or Amsterdam or some other… you know. It seemed a huge adventure. I remember the one student who went to Madrid for a weekend, which seemed an absolutely unbelievable adventure, you know, and very brave and probably very expensive. Must have cost all of £10.

But if you’re not accustomed… this is soon after the War, when all sorts of prohibitions and restrictions have come into play. You can’t take enough money out of the country. Everything has to be measured and so on. And travelling hadn’t returned as something that people did. So to cross the Channel was something of an adventure. A great unknown, and possibly an expensive unknown. In the end, it wasn’t expensive at all.

Born in England, Brian Sewell (1931-2015) was considered to be one of Britain’s most prominent and outspoken art critics. He was educated at the Courtauld Institute of Art and subsequently became an art critic for the London Evening Standard; he received numerous awards for his work in journalism. Sewell also presented several television documentaries, including an arts travelogue called The Naked Pilgrim in 2003. He talked candidly about the prejudice he endured because of his sexuality.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Duration: 2 minutes, 19 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2013

Date story went live: 04 July 2013