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Notable house guests


A good bathroom does help
John Julius Norwich Writer
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This was at Bognor. This little house on the sea coast. It was... it had been, I think, a sort of coastguard house. It was built about 1820, I should think. It had belonged to my grandmother and she had given it to my mother. It was very pretty and had about three acres of ground, I think, probably not more. Very, very uncomfortable. No central heating, one moderately nice bathroom at the far end of the house from the best bedroom. But we loved it and you just walked down out of the garden and onto the beach – that was the great thing about it. Didn’t even have to cross a road. So one swam all the time and my parents always in the summer and they used to have lots of people down for weekends.

In those days, people were much less fussy about their creature comforts than they are now. It’s so strange. They would... they would have come frequently with a valet or a lady’s maid. On the other hand, they never seemed to mind there being only three inches of tepid water in one bath which they would have to queue. The things I did mind... I mean, I’ve never wanted a valet one little bit, but I do quite like an en suite bathroom. They never got anything like that. It was far more uncomfortable for them. I mean, just to have your cuff-links put in your evening clothes seems to me to be frankly unnecessary, but a good bathroom does help. Anyway, people used to come.

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: house, coast, bathroom, valet, lady’s maid

Duration: 1 minute, 48 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018