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A disappointing first kiss


Falling in love
Diana Athill Writer
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I mean, I was always in love with somebody. Back to the first one of all. I… I do know his name was John Sherbrook. I suppose I was five, but I was going to marry John Sherbrook. I can't remember him at all. But I was always in love with somebody. But my first, sort of, recognised being in love with David, was when I was nine. And he was a lovely… and that was a very sensible love, because he was a very nice boy. He was very sensible and kind and brave. An admirable boy, two years older than me. Just died the other day, poor old boy. He grew up, I think, to be one of the most boring men in England. I adored him for a long time. Until I was 15, when I met my first real love, who was Tony, the one I fell in love with, who was in Instead of a Letter, who was called Paul.

[Q] How did you meet him?


[Q] How did you meet him?

He came to be my brother's tutor. My brother was an idle boy, who didn't like being at school. He was also, I think, and we didn't know it in those days, he was slightly dyslexic. And to the end of his days, he wasn't much good at spelling. And it was realised that he'd got to have a bit of help to get into his public school. And what you did in those days was, you got in touch with friends at Oxford or Cambridge and found out some nice young man who wanted to earn a bit of money in the vacation. And Tony turned up. Tony enjoyed any situation in which he was. I mean, he always made the best of any situation in which he was. And so he set to, to sort of teach us about life. I think he taught Andrew a bit of lessons, as well. But on the tad… I mean, he was… but I think I was in love with him before he turned up, actually. You know, a tutor was arriving. How exciting.

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: love, brother, relationship

Duration: 2 minutes, 19 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2008

Date story went live: 23 December 2008