I was born in 1977 in London, but grew up in Norwich, once the second biggest city in the UK, but now just the quietly-confident capital of East Anglia. When I moved to Cambridge, to study for my degree in English at King's College, few people I met had even heard of Norwich, which is probably a very good thing.
I went to Fairway First and Middle Schools, and then to Eaton (City of Norwich) School, a comprehensive. I didn't enjoy school very much, especially secondary school. I found the emphasis on exams, rules, and conformism rather oppressive, since it seemed to leave little room for creativity. Two writers that I learnt about in A-level sociology wrote about the politics of education very perceptively, Paul Willis in 'Learning to Labour' and Ivan Illich in 'Deschooling Society' - although both are a little out of date now, the basic ideas are ones that I applaud. Like my parents, my sociology and history teachers all encouraged me to look at the world critically and never blindly accept the status quo. I really enjoyed what I studied at A-level, it was just the rest of the school 'system' that I found difficult to deal with!
I was very idealistic as a teenager (probably a backlash against the Thatcher era) and took political issues very seriously. I found the apathy of a lot of my peers very frustrating, and still do, although several of my friends, Daniel Blaney, Polly Cobb, Martin Lucas-Smith, more than make up for that apathy through their relentless political enthusiasm. When were at college, Daniel always used to try and flog copies of Socialist Campaign Group News to all and sundry, and successfully campaigned to get the Morning Star delivered to the bar.
Over the years I have been a fervent believer (albeit not much of a campaigner) in lots of different (and often conflicting) issues: animal rights, feminism, hard-left socialism.... I am still proud to call myself a feminist, but my opinions regarding my other old causes have mellowed somewhat - probably very fortunate for those around me!