qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Book Review: Give Me Ten Seconds, by John Sergeant
Sensibly, John Sergeant does not begin his autobiography with his family history or even his childhood, but on the steps of the British Embassy in Paris in November 1990. It was a little early for panto season, but as he announced to the Nation that Mrs Thatcher would not be coming out to make a statement following the Conservative leadership election first ballot results, there must have been many cries of "she's behind you!" throughout the country.

He then charts his family history in the chapter intriguingly titled "And who is Lenin?" and describes his childhood, growing up as the son of a clergyman with a somewhat dysfunctional, yet durable, marriage.

Name-dropping in an autobiography is inevitable, but Sergeant's serendipitous roll-call is impressive, narrating his pre-university experience as one of a handful of white people to witness Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" speech, and his meeting with Alan Bennett at the Edinburgh Fringe whilst a student. Of course his later career as a political correspondent result in a more predictable stream of acquaintances.

After an initial brush with light entertainment, Sergeant began his career as a journalist, first in the press but then moving on to the BBC. The remaining chapters are dedicated to various episodes, from postings to Northern Ireland and Vietnam, through to the Westminster lobby. He freely acknowledges a bumpy career ride, and that he did not always have the confidence of some of his colleagues, but it is clear that, ultimately, he is a survivor. Finally he describes events leading to his move from the BBC to ITN.

It's a book that probably appeals mainly to a politically aware audience, but the subject matter is carefully drawn to make it entertaining and I definitely formed the impression that John Sergeant is a man of many talents, of which appearing eminently flappable on a live TV news broadcast is only one.
Tags: books, politics
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