I arrived back in England in April 1947, aged five. For the next five years we would experience all the hardships of a country just starting to recover from a terrible war. There was rationing for most of the period and the new Welfare State was just beginning to be rolled out. There were very few cars, phones, planes or television sets. The Berlin siege had started along with the Cold War. The British Empire was crumbling fast, most conspicuously with the Independence of India in 1947. It was a challenging period when we had to live by our wits, like everyone else, in an age of austerity though, towards the end, of increasing hope and gradual improvement.

My home life was disrupted by the fact that my parents were usually thousands of miles away in India. I was left with my sister Fiona when I was nearly seven. My parents returned for a few months twice in the following five years. So I was mainly brought up by my mother's parents. I spent a great deal of time with their youngest son Robert, a wonderful companion in whose footsteps I would tread through public school and university. We rented a large house with a lovely garden, with secret woods and with a gate out onto a Dorset heath. Despite the shock of my parents absence it was a protected and loving environment.

I started as a very small boy of five who had spent his life in the privileged world of the late Raj. I was sent to my first schools before full boarding and began to learn to read, write, do arithmetic and learn a little about the world. England was very foreign and it took time to adjust. Yet the fact that I moved with the family I had known so well in India, my grandparents and uncles, made it easier. I was deeply absorbed in all sorts of games, collecting and living a virtual life through my models, through children's books and comics, and in all forms of play, particularly with my young uncle Robert. I learnt to ride a bicycle, became interested in gardening and nature, and started to go to religious camps in the holidays. It was a world where I felt encouraged and stimulated, even if the physical conditions were hard. I grew from a small child to the edge of adolescence before we moved in 1954 to the Lake District.

I was very fortunate to move to a home in the county of Dorset in southern England. It was a beautiful landscape, at the heart of the country about which Thomas Hardy wrote his poetry and novels. The house itself was spacious and comfortable and the garden large and full of trees, paths and lawns. I have written a book about these years based on letters, photographs and other materials, published as Dorset Days. This gives a very full account of the way my imagination and character developed. Although I have only been back to the house and area a couple of times, it remains vivid in my imagination and I am very aware of how important this very English home and countryside, as well as the powerful personality of those around me, shaped me into the person I am now.