By Jean-Marie Klinkenberg
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It was also apparent how thin we were at the senior level, which was something of an irony given that over-heavy management was an article of faith among our critics. The organisation still keenly missed its former deputy director-general Mark Byford, and Caroline Thomson had just departed. Helen Boaden was wounded like George. It had been announced that the finance director Zarin Patel was planning to leave. I was only acting as director of television, which was a huge job in itself, and made more difficult by ambitious underlings positioning themselves for the substantive role.
We would then meet at the Dairy Queen for a malt and some fries to a soundtrack provided by the St Louis Top 40 radio station, KXOK. This was impossibly exotic compared with the England of the 1970s. My host family was headed by a man called Homer, which was funny even then, but they did me proud. We went to the top of the Gateway Arch in St Louis, voyaged on a Mississippi paddle steamer, and went water-skiing on the Lake of the Ozarks, where I stayed upright for approximately three seconds and then sank inelegantly into its balmy waters.
This was accompanied by the social worker’s report from 1958 with the few sketchy lines I know about my natural parents. But when I was interviewed for the role of Master of Selwyn College, I felt secure enough to tell them about my families’ histories, and my relatives, blood and adopted, who were miners and train drivers and farmers and shop assistants. They would never have dreamed that their offspring would even get to university let alone make it to senior roles within the BBC and end up being head of a Cambridge college.