John Julius-Norwich

The stranger on the train

What a pleasure it was to be reminded in a ‘Life and Letters’ column by Allan Massie (28 July) of Desmond MacCarthy. He was an old friend of my parents’ and, in the immediate postwar years, a fairly frequent visitor to their house in Chantilly, outside Paris. One Friday afternoon — it must I think

Why didn’t I appreciate it more?

I should hesitate in any circumstances to compare myself with Marcel Proust; but on opening this marvellous book I knew exactly how he felt with that madeleine. My father was appointed Ambassador to France in 1944, moving in a few weeks after the Liberation of Paris; thus it was that from Christmas of that year