The author's father was a pharmacist and ran various chemist's shops from the Potteries to Basingstoke - albeit t always his own. The Blackwells were thus firmly middle class; but the Depression of the 1930s nearly lost them everything. A retrenchment move to the Midlands of John's early years took him to a school in Leicester where he was bullied, and a home where he was also bullied for a while - by his father, who longed for his son to succeed where he had seemingly failed. Good husbandry and a sensible attitude to work saved the day for the family, and from the B-stream John toiled upwards to academic success. An inquisitive nature, devoted parents and a gifted schoolteacher saw him across the threshold of one of Oxford's great colleges - to make what he could of it in a Britain engulfed by war. Sharp scientific observations on life and industry, with lyrical descriptions of agriculture in the Derbyshire of long ago, set these memoirs apart. They deal with the heart of England, and touch on the magic mixture of temperaments which made our people sceptical, affectionate, enduring and full of enterprise.