I probably wouldn’t have bought this book but a friend left it when he’d finished reading it whilst staying with us and I happened to pick it up and start reading it without thinking much about it. I’m so pleased I did.
I am familiar with who Kate Adie is. She was the war journalist du jour when I was in my early 20s and famous for always wearing her pearl earrings no matter how dire the situation she found herself in. I hadn’t given much thought to who she is and how she ended up as a war journalist. If I had I think I would have expected her to have begun her career as a journalist on a local paper, graduated to a national and then moved into television.
The truth is more interesting and, I think, not a path open to people nowadays.
The book starts by giving an overview of growing up in Sunderland in the 1950s/60s, in a reasonably affluent household. It really gets into its stride when Adie finishes her degree and joins the embryonic Radio Durham as a producer. The whole experience sounds utterly chaotic, totally exhausting and a whole lot of fun.
The transition from Radio Durham to Radio Bristol to television and from producer to reporter appears to have been a matter of pure chance and of being in the right place at the right time when someone needed someone to do something and there wasn’t the time of budget to find a person with experience. There is a strong sense of “everyone is in this together” and “we’ll find a way to make it work” ethos when Adie is talking about the BBC in the early parts of the book.
Adie herself comes across as likable and fun. There were several laugh out loud moments in book – a bit disconcerting for fellow train passengers! – which was unexpected. Having mainly seen Adie report from war zones I have always had the impression that she is a very serious woman. Looks like I was much mistaken.
My main criticism of the book though is that I really don’t feel I know much about Kate Adie as a person; the “what makes her tick”, what does she enjoy doing when she isn’t reporting, who are her family. I think this is fairly typical of an autobiography where an individual is more likely to draw boundaries between what they are happy for people to know and what remains private. I understand the desire to do this but it does lead to an incomplete picture of the person.
However, if you want to know more about life at the Beeb when local radio was new and there were fewer rules and regulations this is an interesting place to start.