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Going to school in Canada


America – my safe haven
John Julius Norwich Writer
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The reason my mother was so keen to get me out was that my father was number three on Hitler's blacklist after Churchill and Anthony Eden, and he... my mother had this sort of nightmare that when... that he would invade. Everybody knew that there would be an invasion – that I remember very well. The question was not, are they going to invade, it's when? Are they going to invade next week or are they going to invade the week after? You know, we were really on our toes waiting for this. And my mother had this theory that if they did come, that the first thing they would do is kidnap me and hold me as hostage for my father's good behaviour, and every time he did something he shouldn't have, they'd pull out another one of my toenails or something. And so she had... this became a fixation and so she had to get me out, so she got me out very, very quickly. And I went to Long Island where I lived with Mr and Mrs William S Paley. And Mr William S Paley was very, very big noise indeed. He was the founder president of Columbia Broadcasting, which I think by this time was the biggest broadcasting company. And he was enormously rich and had this wonderful house in Long Island with swimming pools, tennis courts, I mean whole works, you know. And there I lived for my next half-dozen school holidays.

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: Long Island, Adolf Hitler, William S Paley

Duration: 1 minute, 41 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018