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Drawing lessons for the ungifted


Setting off for America
John Julius Norwich Writer
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There I went to this boarding school in Northamptonshire which was fine and uneventful, and then in the summer of 1940, when all the worst things were happening, when France was falling, when Dunkirk and all that, I was having a very bad attack of measles and was really semi-conscious, I think, only. But I gradually recovered as one does, and barely had recovered when my mother came down and took me out to lunch and said, 'You're going to America.' And I think she thought I was going to burst into tears and say, 'Please, mummy, I don't want to go to America, I want to stay with you.' Instead of which I was incredibly excited. I mean, America, New York, skyscrapers, Hollywood, cowboys, Indians, Errol Flynn! I mean, I couldn't wait to be off. And sure enough, three days, four days later, I was off with my nanny who'd never been abroad before. Suddenly having to take me to America was jolly brave of her. And we took the train to Holyhead and then we took the boat across the Irish Sea to Dublin. And then my mother happened to know the American ambassador in Dublin so they met us off the boat and gave me breakfast, and I rather wish they hadn't because there then followed a drive across the whole of Ireland, which in those days, the roads were terrible. It took a very long time and I was throwing up every half hour because I was appallingly car sick always. It was one of my big troubles.

John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) was an English popular historian, travel writer and television personality. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. He then spent twelve years in H.M. Foreign Service, with posts at the Embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1964 he resigned to become a writer. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, 'The Popes: A History'. He also wrote on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.

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.

Tags: Ireland, America

Duration: 1 minute, 53 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018