The Work I Do

It’s a long time now since I gave up work at the BBC to devote my time to freelance work – initially because I was missing seeing my new daughter growing up. I had to leave home early in the morning when she was still asleep and arrived back in the evening when – you guessed it – she was asleep again.

My daughter’s now studying at university and my son’s in his first year of A Levels. It’s certainly been a privilege to be able to see them grow and mature – some parents don’t get the chance to do that because of their busy schedules. So freelance work may have its disadvantages, like weekends being irrelevant when the work’s there, but being around for my children has made it all worthwhile.

One great thing about my freelance work is that I’ve read about fascinating subjects and worked with very interesting people. I’ve edited cookery books, travel guides, even a book on Feng Shui for cats!  But apart from editing the unofficial biography of the oligarch and football club owner Roman Abramovich, I’ve rarely been offered any text even remotely connected with my editorial work for the BBC, where my area of expertise was communist Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

But I’m glad now to be exploring these areas once again in my teaching of adult education classes. I’ve just taught a course on life behind the Iron Curtain, and next spring I’m reprising my one-day course: ”Why Did The Berlin Wall Fall Down?”, examining the weaknesses of the various countries in Eastern Europe and how they led to the collapse of the system we knew as communism.

Liberty leading the people
Eugène Delacroix: Liberty Leading the People

Researching my book on the cancan gave me a fascinating insight into French society in the 19th century, and that subject too has grown into an adult education course. It’s a social history course looking at the events that affected ordinary people, from 1815 up to the eve of the First World War, including revolutions and rebellions, social and political scandals, how and why Paris came to look like it does today and – yes – the history of that hugely popular dance, the cancan.

I’m really enjoying the enthusiasm of people attending my modern history courses. And I’m also enjoying reading some of my daughter’s university essays – because, I’m delighted to say, she has chosen to study history!