We met Martin at Reading School, the boys’ school he had attended as a child, and where he now serves as a Governor. This venue for our meeting, around the corner from MERL, had been identified at his request. His emotional connection to this place, as a positive influence on his early life, is very strong and he was eager for us to experience being in an environment of such significance to him. There was no doubt that his education here had created a stepping-stone to his later work in the field of War Studies – with a specific interest in the social impact of war - at the University of London, the Open University, and finally, the University of Reading.
It was a bright, sunny day accompanied by a cool wind. First we sat on the vast, deserted cricket field, at a sturdy wooden picnic table, and began our conversation. Later, the disruptive presence of a growling motorized mower prompted our move to a secluded courtyard encompassed by tall red brick buildings, through which energetic, uniformed schoolboys occasionally raced. Here, we first enquired which archival objects Martin might save from a fire, an idea that in turn perplexed and vexed him, particularly since it seemed to evoke a sense of crisis. He had not expected this kind of framework for our discussions, and yet we persisted. In the small courtyard, sheltered from the wind, the intimacy of our conversation seemed to increase, as Martin finally, and openly, reflected on the conditions and emotions of his early childhood. At his request, we have not included the most sensitive of those reflections here. This file is closed.
Later, having said goodbye to him near the school office, where he had introduced us to several members of staff, we mulled over our discussion, drinking coffee and eating cake. We talked a lot about Martin’s emotional engagement with his research, and his desire to stand in solidarity with children affected by conflict. This, as he had told us, was significantly informed by his experiences as a son, a father and a grandfather. We also reflected on the fact that a vast number of his research materials had emerged through a sustained process of careful listening, much of which was conducted after he almost completely lost his hearing in mid-life.