How did you both find your time at King's?
It wasn't straightforward! At the point where we met, I still had my Finals to sit, and Tony still had to do his year abroad – in those days, there were no phones of course, letters only, sometimes crossing, with long waits in-between.
It was a miracle we coincided at King’s, coming from very different backgrounds: Tony, from itinerant parents of mixed Jewish and Catholic faiths, had attended seven different schools up and down the country, including three years boarding; I was an only child who had had a settled rural upbringing.
The subject choice, also, was hit and miss. In those days most students were the first in their family to go to university, so parents could offer little advice. More often than not you studied what you were good at when you were at school: so, German for me, at the university my headmistress had attended. Tony never really understood why they accepted him at King’s, but they did and thank goodness they did.
Life in those days at London University was not easy. It was huge – 42 colleges, no common campus. For women students particularly, there was little in the way of student accommodation. As first-year women we found ourselves in a musty Victorian mansion with a lot of rather surprised elderly residents. We got out of that after a term, and after getting into all kinds of scrapes, wound up in call girl flats in Notting Hill. But that’s another story… All very character-forming, but I well remember Dr Helen Hughes, the Dean of Women Students, in her introductory talk to all Fresher women saying, 'London is not easy. Some of you will sink, some will swim'. And she was right. Not everybody did make it.
How did you find life after graduating from King's?
A year after graduating I actually returned to King’s to do a PGCE. I had to fight for my place at King’s though as they initially passed on my application. I was incensed and contacted the department to ask why they had turned down a good Honours graduate, and an alumna of King's. I felt I'd had a sketchy interview and said so. The head of the department, Dame Joyce herself, interviewed me over the Christmas break and I was immediately offered a place. I later discovered they always held back a few places for the men 'who are always a bit late applying…' REALLY?!
The course at King’s Education Department was mind-blowing: not only did students have a whole term of academic study and the chance to study Philosophy, Sociology and Psychology amongst other subjects, without the distraction of teaching practice, but the whole approach to the teaching of languages was, to me, revolutionary, involving as it did the use of the so-called 'Direct Method', namely teaching the language in the language. Thanks to the determined and somewhat eccentric efforts of the King's language staff of the Education Department, I became a fervent convert to this approach and adopted it in all my own teaching from then on.
My first teaching posts were all in London – and all boys’ schools! Battersea Grammar School, Strand School Brixton (long gone) and Archbishop Tenison’s School. The Inner London Education Authority had generously given me a sabbatical 'to try teaching out' with the offer of a return to them if I didn’t like it. But, despite a baptism of fire on teaching practice at Acton County School, I did like it and my family was much relieved that I had found my vocation.
Tony, meanwhile, experienced a crushing disappointment in his final year. Applying to become a commercial pilot, it was discovered in his medical that he had an incurable eye disease – retinitis pigmentosa – so could no longer fly. This was a huge blow to his aspirations, but he turned his mind to business and the new world of computing. A diploma in Management Studies followed, with additional qualifications in Accounting and Computing. I thought he would never stop studying, but he said he was good at exams so might as well make the most of it.
So, he worked in computing as a systems analyst and then embarked upon a long career in Management Consulting, a career which took him all over the world.
At this point you went to work abroad. Did you and Tony enjoy it?
A couple of years in Brussels in the early 90s was a life-changing experience both for us and our three (by now teenaged) children, and a break away from home in Surrey. We had amassed an enormous number of activities and community responsibilities, including Borough Councillor (Tony), Chair of local Liberal Party and Board of Governors (me), three kids in three different schools and me teaching full time in another. We gave it all up and went to Brussels with Tony’s job to join a new multinational office to bid for work from the EU.
And how did you then adapt to life when you came back to the UK?
On our return, I chanced upon a second career after I approached the University of Surrey about a possible Dutch language course. There was a well-developed Languages for All scheme for the students, plus a full programme of adult evening classes at Surrey. No Dutch though! With Tony’s help I was able to make the case for an Enterprise programme offering language training to businesses. I really enjoyed this and stayed in the role until retirement, playing an active part in international conferences along the way (never forgetting my King's training of course).
Politics entered our lives in the early 80s. Always politically interested, Tony famously said 'Why not?' when we were asked to join the Liberal Party. A year later, he was the second Liberal on the Council. Earlier this year (in 2022), we saw our Party finally take control in our area, due in no small part to Tony’s endeavours and irresistible optimism. He was a real community warrior in retirement, taking on all manner of issues and throwing himself into projects – everything from a celebration of HG Wells (Woking now has the only statue of HG in existence) and high-rise buildings, to the Neighbourhood Watch. I never stood for election, but we were both of the same mind on these matters, as in most important things, despite there being frequent 'crosstalk' between us, as my son called it.
We never intended to stay in Surrey – it was the nearest place we could afford within reach of London, which has always been close to our hearts. When Tony was recently blue-lighted up to the Critical Care Unit at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea, he was pleased to be in London again. We considered the Southbank and King's as our neighbourhood. London was the centre of Tony’s work for many years, and culturally it was mine too.