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The best laid plans


The taste of freedom
John Julius Norwich Writer
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And then I did my year, and even at the end of the year... I'd done a lot of research on The Normans by then, but I hadn't actually written Chapter One or, indeed, sentence one. And I started at the end of the year dreading the telephone ringing, calling me in. And, actually, they gave me about 15 months, but eventually the telephone did ring. And I remember sitting in the tube, saying, what am I going to say? I still... I was still uncertain. And then I went in and I said, 'I'm leaving.' And as I said it, I thought I'll be back tomorrow morning, on all fours, saying, 'I didn't mean it, take me back, take me back, please', you know. But, in fact, that's what happened, and I haven't regretted it for a single second since. I'm absolutely convinced that it was the right decision, and I don't think I'm that interested in diplomacy and foreign affairs. I don't think maybe I was a... would've been a terrific success. I mean, I think I'd have been an ambassador, but it might have been in Nicaragua or somewhere, you know. And, anyway, I was out. And what I loved, first of all, really, what I loved was the independence, saying, 'I'll stay in bed tomorrow morning if I want to'; or, 'Yes, of course, I'll come to Nigeria' or whatever, you know. I was free. So that was a tremendous excitement.

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: diplomacy, foreign service, ambassador, independence

Duration: 1 minute, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018