My parents had moved to the north of England partly because they intended me to go to the northern boarding school at Sedbergh in the Yorkshire dales. I went there as a boarder in the autumn of 1955 at the age of just under fourteen and remained for five years. Like my first boarding school at Oxford, I have always known that the experience at Sedbergh has had another huge influence in making me who I am.

My public schooldays coincided with the debacle of Suez, the final retreat from Africa, and the assertion of American supremacy and the end of the British Empire. There was also the deepening of the Cold War and new global alliances. It was a period of huge change in technology: the rapid growth of television, the spread of car and motorbike ownership, of private phone ownership, air travel and central heating. All this reflected a rapid rise in wealth in the Britain and much of the West.

Interconnected was a cultural revolution, the rise of 'pop' music, the sudden emergence in 1957 of rock and roll, Elvis Presley, popular jazz and skiffle, guitars, longer hair and youth fashion. It was the period of 'Teddy Boys' and coffee bars, of 'angry young men', 'kitchen sink drama', new poetry and literature. There was a social revolution, with questioning of the old hierarchies of age, class and gender. In sum, it was a great watershed, which continued over the next five years from 1960, when the order which had roughly prevailed from later Victorian England was challenged.

I went to Sedbergh in September 1955 as an under-sized child of thirteen. I was already largely formed in character and mentality, but still lived largely in a world of childhood with my toys, children's books and a world of myth and adventure. I was largely unquestioning and not yet interested in religion or adult things. I grew rapidly physically, going through puberty and becoming heavier and taller. Especially for the last three years in the sixth form, I moved from class teaching to a more individual style of supervisions and finding things out for myself.

By the time I left I was on the verge of adulthood. Yet I still retained something of the child, even if my mind was now reasonably formed for adult life and I had learnt the arts of friendship and of becoming responsible for myself and others. I was able to travel on my own with a friend round Europe in my last summer at the school.

The whole experience is described in great detail in Sedbergh Schooldays.