My Granny was an intrepid sailor and took her boat single-handedly through the rivers and canals from Le Havre to Marseille. My parents met as medical students whilst sailing and vowed to have a large family.
I was born in 1937. Although I was the oldest of four brothers I never acted the older sister. Robert’s personality made him the leader. My mother was the first woman GP in Witney and my father the haematologist who discovered Factor Eight. In fact, he got a CBE for his work and became a Fellow of the Royal Society and All Souls.
So I came of a very academic family. We had a series of nannies to look after us at Downhill Farm, Hailey. At eight I went to Oxford High School as a weekly boarder. Because I was the youngest there I became a pet and the girls used to vie to plait my hair - I expect a welcome change from life at home. I do remember though being on the verge of tears over Easter with homesickness after an outbreak of scarlet fever meant I had to stay in quarantine and couldn’t come home for the holiday.
When I became a daygirl, living out in the sticks became a real trial. Either dad took me to work with him so I was invariably late (I used to wait for the end of assembly in an ante room with Miriam Margolyes), or I had to walk the mile down to Witney to catch the bus into Oxford. Highlights of school life were choir, making and playing my bamboo pipes at festivals, netball, hockey and friends... and retrospectively the kudos of being made up as a page for Romeo and Juliet by Maggie Smith.
I loved my beamed attic room with my little Victorian desk, my chaise longue, granny's pictures and my old books, all of which we have in our sitting room now. My parents were quite something to live up to. They were devoted to each other. Mum immersed herself in good works in the community and always changed every evening for dinner. Afterwards Dad would listen to classical music on his hi-fi, which also became a passion of mine. I struck another bond with him through our love of samurai swords after he inherited a fine example and would accompany him to London auctions. He became quite an authority on them and was the driving force behind an exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. I helped with the photographs.
Surprisingly, my parents also ran a dairy farm on the side with 20 or so Jersey cows, and they bought beautiful Halcyone, a 30-ton ketch for our holidays on the south coast on the premise it would be cheaper than hotels!