Rutherfurd on Rutherfurd

Early Childhood

Q. Let's turn to your life. You were born in England, near the ancient monument of Stonehenge, in the cathedral city of Salisbury, also known as Sarum. Was this where your family had always come from?

A. No. It was luck that I was born in Sarum. During World War II, my mother's sister came there because her soldier husband had been posted to Southern Command, which was at Wilton just outside Salisbury. Then he was sent to America, to Washington, as one of the diplomatic team working with the American military, and she and their children had to stay in Salisbury. My great aunt and my grandfather had also come to live in the New Forest nearby. So at the end of the war it was natural for my parents to come to the area.

Q. And they decided to stay?

A. Yes, although they nearly emigrated. Not long after the war my aunt and her husband emigrated to Australia, and my mother was quite interested in going too. Indeed, many years later she did go to live in Australia, and she now has dual Australian and British citizenship. My father wanted to go to Canada. Some of his closest friends were Canadians, living in Ontario. Having been brought up in France, my father also spoke perfect French. He'd probably have been very happy in Canada.

Q. And you'd have been a Canadian.

A. I've spent many months in Canada during my life. I'd have been very comfortable as a Canadian citizen. But in the end, other family ties kept my parents in England, and I was given the wonderful gift of a childhood in Sarum.

Q. Stonehenge, nearby, is five thousand years old, the cathedral beside which you lived dates from the thirteenth century, the streets of Salisbury are lined with houses from medieval times to the eighteenth century. Did all that living history around you affect your imagination?

A. I'm sure it did. My first walks as a child were in the cathedral cloister. My preschool was in a seven-hundred-year-old house. As kids we would play in the cathedral beside the old tombs which had life-size effigies of medieval knights, some of them with their dogs, carved in stone. History wasn't something you read about in books or saw in movies. It was something you reached out and touched.

Q. Did you show any signs of talent as a child?

A. Not really. I was just middle of the class, fair at sports. My friends and I used to bicycle a lot, twenty or thirty miles - we thought nothing of it - all over Salisbury Plain, the New Forest, that whole area. And that was on old fashioned bicycles most of us, with only three speeds.

Q. It didn't worry your parents that you'd disappear for most of the day.

A. The world was a safer place in those days. We had far more freedom than kids have today.

Q. No sign of the budding writer, then?

A. Just one. I used to tell stories to the other kids on the school bus. That was probably the start of it.

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