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This interview is taken from PN Review 240, Volume 44 Number 4, March - April 2018.

in Conversation Peter Scupham
It’s good to see you looking so spry after all these years. Shall we dive straight in, Peter. When did it all start?

Do sit down, do sit down. Well, there was heavy snow up north on 24 February 1933 – three days before the Reichstag fire, I think it was – and at ten o’clock that evening a Bootle hospital echoed to the cry ‘It’s a boy!’ Being used to being told what’s what, I accepted this at the time and…

Cut the cackle. Let’s go to childhood. James Reeves wrote: ‘It is the child of toil and want / who learns to make the future grow’. Were you a child of toil and want?

No, but a child in a household that had to watch the pennies. My father was a frustrated schoolmaster, a scholarship boy with a double-first from Cambridge teaching C and D streams in Liverpool and Derby; day-release students at Cambridge Tech while assessing prospective students in history for Exhibitions and Scholarships at Emmanuel. My mother was a hard-working and depressive housewife. They did their very best in toughish times. My schooldays mean little. I had amusing nightmares of the Perse School, where I dodged Old Gob, the gowned and mortar-boarded headmaster, hurling tins I seized from a proto-supermarket at him as he came on like a tank. But my childhood was a running-free childhood, and I always had one good friend.

Running free?

In Derby, traipsing suburban streets, helping push salvage carts, collecting shrapnel. The usual. In a Cambridgeshire ...

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