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My mother's glittering career


Risking prosecution by trespassing on the South Downs
John Julius Norwich Writer
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I remember we had a lovely little house just outside Bognor on the South Coast. The garden went straight down onto the shingle. It was extremely uncomfortable. It was very pretty but a nightmare. I mean, you couldn't have lived in it in the winter, it had no central heating, jolly little running water but we loved it and I remember that, again, we used to go on great drives over the South Downs and she wouldn't... no question of keeping to the roads, we're going over the grass, over the downland. And I remember coming to a fence once with a row of posts and a sign saying, 'Trespassers will be prosecuted.' And my mother said, 'Just go and pull up that middle post and we'll go through.' And I suppose I must have been not more than about six thought that 'Trespassers will be prosecuted' meant that trespassers would be executed, and so I was deeply reluctant to pull out this thing, but it was cowardice on the one hand or facing my mother's scorn on the other. So I pulled the thing up and through we went. She was very careful making me to put it back afterwards. And that was the sort of thing that she did. And she was most enormous fun to be with.

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: South Downs

Duration: 1 minute, 16 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018