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My grandmother's house


A happy childhood
Diana Athill Writer
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I can say I had a happy childhood, because that's what it seemed to be. I mean, I simply adored animals, my ponies, our dogs… my cousins, I was very fond of, who I had as companions. I sometimes, I look at photographs – there are very, very few photographs we had – and I looked a rather, sort of, skinny, sad child, quite often, in the photographs. I think I was not very confident, I think I was quite shy, in a way. But on the whole, everything… and I was frightened of things I couldn't do well. I didn't like tennis parties because I couldn't play tennis well. But on the other hand, I did like tennis parties, because one met all one's friends there, and, you know, I wasn't paralysed by shyness.

And on the whole, most of what I… and I loved the places, you see. I absolutely adored my grandmother's house. Coming home to that for holidays when we were living in other places, driving up the drive, getting out and opening the gate, and smelling the familiar smells – I think children go a lot by smells – I absolutely adored it. And finding out which room one was going to be sleeping in.

Diana Athill (1917-2019) was a British literary editor whose publishing career began when she helped André Deutsch establish his company. She worked with many notable writers, namely Philip Roth, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Rhys and VS Naipaul. Following the publication of her memoirs, she came to be hailed as an author in her own right.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: childhood, pets, tennis, house

Duration: 1 minute, 24 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2008

Date story went live: 23 December 2008