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Teaching English in Finland


London was a dead-end
Katharine Whitehorn Writer
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London was... I got a job in publishing, sort of dogsbody job, read... being the first person to read. And that was considered very good for an English graduate, it’s what we all thought we wanted. And I lived first of all in a bedsitter. And then... ghastly bedsitters. First one was out in Streatham and men weren’t allowed anywhere near it. So if anybody came to take me out they had to pace up and down the road in the rain while I was getting ready. That didn’t last long.

And then I was in part of a converted house in Notting Hill Gate where I was on the ground floor in, fortunately, it was a sliced up very big room, and I was fortunately in the slice with the gas fire which I could turn on without getting out of bed. So that was nice. But the kitchen itself was downstairs and the Polish landlady used occasionally to emerge lugubriously when I dropped a tray and say if I washed up rather oftener I wouldn’t break so much each time. Which was true.

It was rather a dead-end for me, I didn’t see... I wasn’t particularly good at publishing. I did a bit of teaching English to foreigners in the evenings and I had a very, very good friend, who remained my closest friend all his life, but he wasn’t actually the man I wanted to marry. And it was a dead-end in that sense.

A distinguished journalist and renowned author, Katharine Whitehorn (1928-2021) has written for The Spectator and Picture Post. She was the first woman to have her own column in the Observer and was their star columnist for the best part of 40 years. Educated at Newnham College, Cambridge, is recognised as someone who has transformed 20th century women's journalism. She took a keen interest in social welfare issues, was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine and was the first woman rector of the University of St Andrews.

Listeners: Bob Bee

Bob Bee is a Scottish documentary maker who has made many films on the Arts and Science for ITV, BBC and Channel Four.

Tags: London, Streatham, Notting Hill Gate

Duration: 1 minute, 20 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2010

Date story went live: 16 February 2011