Monday, 31 January 2011

Britain is a country whose old men say "welcome back" to a BBC newsreader called Julia Somerville

The BBC has responded to accusations of 'ageism' by making its erstwhile newsreader, the 63-year-old Julia Somerville, the presenter of 'Weekend News' on BBC1 after an absence of 24 years.

I first saw Julia when we were both 19 at Sussex University in 1966. I seem to recall that she was tall and statuesque, wore a mini skirt and her hair in two side bunches. We were both in the same 'School of Study' where she studied 'English' and I studied 'History' and although she was a week younger than me, was in the year below me.

Julia has since said of Sussex : "It married the merits of the Oxbridge system of small tutorials with the American idea of a campus university. It was actually nicknamed 'Balliol-by-Sea'. Sussex embodied everything that was new and modern; and I loved the idea of contextual studies.

But in reality I came because I saw a picture of the terribly glamorous Jay twins in Honey magazine with their long hair, short skirts and Sussex scarves. After that I never looked anywhere else."

I think I agreed with Julia on the latter, rather than the former.

What did Julia and I have in common, apart from Sussex University ?

Well..,I :

* was the son of a 'saw doctor' who worked sharpening saws in a timber mill in Deptford, London..... I don't know what Julia's father did for a living, but I suspect he didn't work with his hands.

* was educated at a state run, Junior Boys' School' in Charlton, South London and Julia at the private, 'Airthrie Preparatory School' in Cheltenham, Gloustershire.

* went on, at 11, to the state run, 'Eltham Green Comprehensive School', South London and Julia to 'Headington Girls' Independent School' in Oxford.

* graduated with a history degree in 1968 and Julia with an English degree in 1969.

* after studying for a teaching certificate at Sussex, in 1969 I got a job in a state secondary school and Julia joined publisher IPC, working on 'Homes and Gardens' magazine, a Women's Journal, the PR section of 'Woman's Own' and then for two years she was editor of a computer group's 'house magazine'.

* in 1972 I was at the same school in my third year of teaching and Julia joined the BBC as a sub-editor in the radio newsroom.

* in 1978 I was in my second teaching job as head of the school's history department and Julia became a reporter.

* in 1983 I was teaching in the same school and Julia joined 'BBC Television News' and became one of the most recognised faces on television, co-presenting the 'BBC Nine O'Clock News.'

* from the 1980's to the early 2000's continued to teach in a state school and Julia worked in television with Independendent Television News until 2001, presenting the 'ITV Lunchtime News.'

* remain in retirement, while Julia is out of retirement back on the BBC reading the News.

Julia's reprise :

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