I was brought up near the Somme and as a young teenager I attended the Lycée at Abbeville. I was still very much a provincial in those days, almost oblivious of the implications of the global conflict from which we had recently emerged. I knew little of politics or world affairs. My life was wrapped up in scholarly obligations such as leaving the house in the village where we lived at 7 o’clock every morning to moped eight miles up the road to school. I can still see myself dressed like a visitor from an alien planet bent over his machine to face the strong winds blowing in from the sea. Of school itself I remember little, except that it bored me. My life was in the wider spaces, in the sheer fact of being alive and in touch through my senses with the fields and the sky and sea beyond. I used to think I was following in the tracks of millions of my predecessors throughout history as, daily, I re-enacted their ambivalent progress from village to town, from happy rural ignorance to the dubious benefits of urban learning.
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