PEOPLE

Janet Gleeson

‘I was born in Sri Lanka—then called Ceylon—and spent my early childhood on a remote tea plantation. The bungalow where we lived was surrounded by fields of immaculately kept tea, shaded by jacaranda trees. It had been built in the late 19th century in the grand colonial style with a veranda over-looking a canna-fringed lawn, the Horton Plains rising above and a panoramic view over distant mountains and the valley below. It was an exotic, isolated but privileged existence. We had a nanny, a cook and several other servants in the ...

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John Fisher

‘I was born in Boston, Lincolnshire, in 1971, but I don’t really feel like I’m from anywhere in England. My father was in the Royal Air Force so we bounced from RAF base to RAF base throughout my childhood. I thought of it as normal but in retrospect, it was quite a weird life because we were in a constant state of motion. I don’t remember being attached to places, or possessions, because our lives were always being boxed up and shipped three months ahead of us. Maybe that’s why ...

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Helen Carless

‘My mother and father met in Cyprus, where my father was doing his National Service. He was Welsh, and she Cypriot, sadly both dead now. They were both quite young, perhaps a bit naïve, but terribly romantic, and they returned to the UK so that he could take up a place at Cambridge. His ambition was to join the UN; a PhD was needed for that, so he chose to read Arabic Studies and spent some time in Cairo, from which arose a love affair with Arab people, their culture ...

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Richard Lane

‘I was born in Hampton, Middlesex, when my dad was away in the Korean War. He was in the Navy until I was about three. We then moved to the edge of Epping Forest with my younger brother and sister and dad, like his father, joined the Police Force. I was passionately interested in natural history from a very young age and often went off on my own exploring nature. My parents were incredibly tolerant of all the strange things I kept around the house. I was particularly fascinated by ...

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Alice Allan

‘When my husband Chris got taken on by the Foreign and Commonwealth, I was given some advice by a fearsome ex-ambassador’s wife: “Get an English teaching certificate so that you have something to keep you occupied while the children are at boarding school.” It sounded very far from the life I knew, or any kind of future I’d imagined for myself. At the time, I felt sick at the prospect of so utterly giving up my identity, but ultimately, I think she did us a favour. She galvinised us to ...

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