bestselling author and writer
bestselling author and writer
I was born in 1931 in Tooting, and when I was four was enrolled at a local dancing school run by a lady
called Madam Hadley, which I attended until I was eight when the war began. Because of the war my
school career was – shall we say – varied. I was evacuated twice, the first time to Felpham which is near
Bognor Regis and the second to Harpenden in Hertfordshire, and consequently went to ten different
schools. I ended up at Streatham Secondary School, an LCC grammar run on the Dalton system, which
offered a few lessons as sparking points and then required pupils to be responsible for their own
learning, either in study rooms with their teachers on hand to help and advise, or on their own in the
library or the school hall. It suited me to a T. Then to King’s College London, where I read English and
enjoyed myself a lot, but wasn’t particularly distinguished, having other things on my mind by then.
I am proud of the fact that I was in Tooting for the first four months of the blitz, and only left it to be
evacuated again when our road was bombed and our house was uninhabitable. I spent the middle part
of the war in Harpenden and returned to live in London again at the end of the war at the time of the
V2’s, this time without my family.
When I was just sixteen I met the love of my life, who arrived on my doorstep in Air Force blue one
February evening in the coldest winter on record.
Despite heavy opposition from my parents, we married three years later during my first year at King’s
and spent the next 53 years 11 months and 6 days living more and more happily together.
We had three much loved children and five much loved grandchildren and once I’d embarked on my
career as a novelist, researched all the books together, which was great fun. We finished work on
‘Gates of Paradise’ six weeks before he died. So this publication is special to me.
I have enjoyed two careers in my life – as a teacher from 1952 to 1985 (with ten years off to bring up my
family, which some might consider a third career) and as a published writer from 1980 to date. I am also,
although it sounds immodest to say it, an easy and charismatic public speaker, usually unfazed by any
audience no matter how big or how small or what questions they might throw at me.
In the two schools where I was head of the English department, I deliberately covered the full range of
age and ability, believing that as I was paid the largest salary I should carry the heaviest responsibility.
My work was filmed by KCL Education Department for use in their PGCE course and I have given talks
at various colleges and schools on a variety of educational subjects, from teaching poetry to ‘tackling’
sex education. I have never subscribed to the Gradgrind theory of education which is current now, but
always believed that the job of a teacher is to enable her students to learn.
I have always been a political animal, taking part in street demonstrations, walking from Aldermaston to London, involved in the 1945 election despite the fact that I was only fourteen, taking to the streets again, along with a million others, to protest against the Iraq war when I was 72.
And as a last and rather lighter touch, I was a beauty queen in 1947. It wasn’t all protests!