I was born on
My father had already retired from business. He was charming, hyper-sensitive, neurotic, later
very eccentric. My impending arrival caused
him deep alarm and dismay which lasted until after my birth.
My father had already retired from business. He was charming, hyper-sensitive, neurotic, later very eccentric. My impending arrival caused him deep alarm and dismay which lasted until after my birth.
I was told many times that Mother couldn’t account for this
event so late in her life. My sister explained
everything: “I prayed for it”. Mother
said: “Well, you sent for it, so you can look after it.”
When I was two years old, we moved to Fillongley, a small village
six miles from
When I was two years old, we moved to Fillongley, a small village six miles from
I attended the local school which stands next to the church, in
Before World War II broke out, my brother, who was unmarried,
gave up his practice as a solicitor in
Before World War II broke out, my brother, who was unmarried, gave up his practice as a solicitor in
The war had already started when, in 1940, I entered Barr’s Hill Grammar School for girls in Coventry, a government school with entrance examination requirements and streamed in the higher forms for arts (top level) science (second level) and domestic science (third level). Our headmistress and teachers were all single, a generation of intelligent women who had lost their fiancés as a result of the first World War and lavished their energies and (now I see it) love on us, as we were the children they had failed to have. I remember in fifth form, a new science teacher joined the staff. She was a married woman and, because of this, I did not think she could be a proper teacher.
Although we lived in the country, I became an evacuee. The
However, separation from home, a diet of (mostly) fish and chips
and a little body trying to come to puberty all took their toll. After about a year away, my parents decided I was
too pale and thin to stay away any longer. So
I went back home. Then they told me my beloved
brother, who was a Pilot Officer, had been shot down over the
However, separation from home, a diet of (mostly) fish and chips and a little body trying to come to puberty all took their toll. After about a year away, my parents decided I was too pale and thin to stay away any longer. So I went back home. Then they told me my beloved brother, who was a Pilot Officer, had been shot down over the
After a year or so, I started to pick up. School was my delight and my friends were very
After a year or so, I started to pick up. School was my delight and my friends were very dear.
Father was becoming increasingly strange. He blamed most of his suffering on the state of marriage and told me, even as a small child, that the most foolish thing in the world was to marry and have children. Though he clearly doted on his children, and on me (forever his baby), it did not make sense and I knew that what I wanted most in the world was to have children of my own.
By the time I was in my teens, he was living as a virtual
recluse. It was almost impossible to get any
money from him, for anything, though Mother eventually established a housekeeping
allowance of two pounds which was laid out promptly each week - but never increased. She kept herself sane by having a sense of humour,
by growing fruit and vegetables in the big garden for us to eat, and also magnificent
flowers such as sweet peas and chrysanthemums, which a florist in
I loved school and eventually saw that going to University was
the easiest way to get away from home and find a place in the world. I reasoned that if I got a place and scholarships,
no-one could stop me. So my marks rose
dramatically, I won every scholarship available and a place at
However, he eventually agreed to pay my fees, accommodation and a
basic allowance which did not match the scholarship amounts.
But I was on my way and happy.
However, he eventually agreed to pay my fees, accommodation and a basic allowance which did not match the scholarship amounts. But I was on my way and happy.
At London University, I chose to do an Honours Degree in French, with German as a subsidiary subject, my main motivation being that I wanted to go to France. In hindsight, it was a frivolous approach to a deadly serious issue, but it was the best I could manage at the time.
At the end of my first year, I spent the long vacation as nanny
to five children with a family called Landon living in
After ten weeks in
At the end of my second year, I managed to squeeze a hundred
pounds from my father for the long vacation. My
room-mate, Pat, who was a history student, and I set off on our bikes and spent ten weeks
However, all good things must end. At the end of my university days, I faced the problem of getting a job. Teaching was about the only thing for which a degree in French was useful, but that meant another year’s training - and dependence in my father. Besides, I really loved kids and feared that a classroom full of other people’s might put me off for life. Also, after being at a girl’s school and a women’s college (undoubtedly chosen subconciously to avoid any early possible romances until I was “of age”), it was time to enter the real world.
The real world turned out to be a job with the Ministry of Supply
in the Engineering Industries Division in
My original application to the British Government for a job with the Foreign Office was rejected, despite a demonstrated ability to learn and speak other languages. Instead, a later offer was made to work with the light engineering industry, of which I knew nothing. I soon learned the industrial terminology, but it bothered me that I had to tell manufacturers they could not have a licence for nickel plating because their export performance was not good enough and they would have to close down. (Nickel was in short supply after the war.) Being confined by office walls was not a comfortable environment for a Saggitarian. Combined with long travel hours, a five and a half day working week, living alone and thoroughly miserable, the city I had loved became unbearable and after almost two years, I applied for a transfer to the country.
The Atomic Energy Establishment at Harwell in
I moved into Staff Club A, Ridgeway House, formerly the Air Force Officers’ quarters and shared a room with the secretary of one of the top scientists. I appreciated her company and that of the other girls, mostly scientists, for the staff club housed seventy men and only seven women.
At the time, I had difficulty coping with day-to-day existence,
having developed a number of fears and phobias. These were undoubtedly a legacy from my
father’s peculiar attitudes to adult life and the stresses and strains of the recent
However, ………..to be continued.