is a special correspondent for the BBC
World Affairs Unit. She has also worked
for ITN and Channel 4 news. Her BBC1
report on Chinese persecution in Tibet is
on `Correspondent' on Saturday, 17 October
The lady is a Belgravia Square: It's a bit like those dreadful men who went to Eton, Oxford and the Guards: I went to a private primary school just off Sloane Square, then Cheltenham Ladies' College and Oxford. In my defence, I would say that I'm politically a believer in the comprehensive school system - but if I hadn't been born in Belgravia, I wouldn't have had the chance to be a late developer. The 11-plus was considered a chore not to be treated seriously, and the school was far too embarrassed to tell me that I'd failed. I was alerted to the fact from the pack of leaflets about secondary moderns pushed through the door by the education authority.
Bit of a grouse: I was pretty naughty at Francis Holland Church of England School for Girls, but I made an awfully good Angel Gabriel - and did it for three years running, which was unprecedented. It was quite ironical that I went to Cheltenham Ladies', which is highly academic; my father was very traditional, and his only aspiration for me was that I should marry a grouse moor! I was a typical candidate for Benenden but the headmistress of Francis Holland had taught at Cheltenham, and suggested to my parents that I try for a place there.
Losing their marbles: Cheltenham Ladies' College was a wonderful education - but, on the other hand, it was emotionally inhibited. I'm so against the idea of boarding school: those long winter evenings with the wind lashing against the windows of your House, cold draughty corridors and no one to cuddle. The number of tears shed in the dormitories. One spent so long obeying quite senseless rules; there was, for example, the Marble Corridor which you were not allowed to go down. I now specialise in sneaking across frontiers, into countries where journalists are not allowed. This could be one's rather belated rebellion.
Trekkies: It was a 25-minute walk from your House to the classrooms, but we thought nothing of it. It may well have given me my love of walking: I trek regularly in the Himalayas.
Dodds-on favourite: It was a history teacher at Cheltenham Ladies', Patricia Dodds, who really picked me up and dusted me down, in my second year of my A-levels. My parents were getting divorced at the time. Without her help, I would never have got to Oxford and become a reporter. I got ABC in history, English and Latin, and a closed scholarship - it was a bit of a cheat but you still had to reach a certain standard - to St Hilda's, Oxford.
Mayfly: I went up to read history, but I soon changed to a combined degree of history and modern languages. I got a second. I was a bit of a social butterfly, and helped to organise the Magdalen May Ball. I worked for Isis magazine during most of my time at Oxford. Tony Hall, now head of news and current affairs at the BBC, and Peter Stothard, current editor of The Times, were on Isis at the same time.
The Italian job: I got a job as a graduate trainee at ITN. A lot of the interview I had with Nigel Ryan, the editor, was conducted in Italian, discussing Dante. When he wasn't newsgathering with his foot in the door, he used to translate French and Italian poetry. The deputy editor was just sitting there with his mouth open.
Interview by Jonathan SaleReuse content