sir max hastings author journalist and broadcaster
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Sir Max Hastings, author, journalist and broadcaster

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Sir Max Hastings, author, journalist and broadcaster

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Sir Max Hastings, 65, started in journalism as a foreign correspondent and has reported from 11 conflicts – he was the first journalist to enter Port Stanley during the Falklands War in 1982. He was editor, then editor-in-chief, of The Daily Telegraph (1986-1995), and editor of the Evening Standard (1996-2002). He has written 22 books, including his latest, All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945 (HarperPress). He has two grown-up children and lives in Hungerford, Berkshire, with his wife, Penny, and their dogs Jasper and Stanley (maxhastings.com). Routine I’m usually up and about by 6am. I take the dogs out before getting down to work on my next book, which is about the First World War, and then have lunch with Penny in the kitchen. We usually have soup, home-made with proper pheasant or grouse stock, with vegetables from the garden and a bit of salad and cheese. Then I have a sleep after lunch and do some journalism in the afternoon until dinner at 8.15, which is usually grouse or partridge or pheasant. I feel very guilty if I haven’t written 1,000 words in a day. Gilt box One of my first jobs was as a researcher on a huge series the BBC did called The Great War. In 1963 a lot of First World War veterans were still alive and I met hundreds of them; it was absolutely fascinating. One of the things that those who were in the British Expeditionary Force remembered was receiving a gilt box from Queen Mary at Christmas, containing goodies. The novelist Robert Harris, who is my neighbour, gave me this one (pictured) and I find it enormously helpful to have it on my desk as I’m researching that period now; I shut my eyes and think of how things looked to a different generation. Penny When I was a researcher, I used to go to the BBC library in order to ogle Penny, who worked there. But then she married Michael Grade and I married someone else and we didn’t get together until much, much later – we married in 1999. I once said to Penny, ‘You would have saved me a lot of trouble if you’d married me the first time around.’ But she says, ‘You’ve no idea how awful you were back then.’ War My father, Macdonald Hastings, was a correspondent on Picture Post during the Second World War. He adored the war and it took me years to realise that there was a small, privileged minority who had a wonderful time, but a much larger number of people had a ghastly experience. Now I have written nine books on the Second World War and have spent years sitting in obscure archives reading about it, or interviewing people about it, and it inspires absolute humility. You become so conscious of what an absurdly pampered and privileged existence we all have by comparison. Apples Although I’m known for fishing and shooting, I spend a lot more time in the garden. Penny and I both hate waste, and when you get a terrific apple year, like we had this year, we do apple pressing. You end up totally exhausted after a couple of hours of turning this aged press (pictured), but it’s tremendous fun. You get 50 litres of apple juice, which we freeze; so instead of putting the apples on the compost heap you feel very virtuous. Hoof The hoof (pictured overleaf) is from a buffalo that Father shot in India about 60 years ago, and it sits on a shelf in my hallway. Father was sort of a professional journalist adventurer, but it’s only when one is grown up that one realises that his great achievements were actually pretty absurd, like being cast away on a desert island where he nearly died. I was the most frightful coward on the football field and I thought I could never live up to Father. Boots Part of living up to my father was being frightfully extravagant. When I was young I used to think that an Englishman had to have his shoes made for him, so I went to Lobb the bootmakers and, even though I had no money, I bought some boots, which in 1972 cost £120, a hell of a lot. I took them with me to the Falklands because I thought we might have to do a lot of walking. When I got back, and was briefly quite famous, I took the boots, which were in a pretty bad way, back to Lobb and said, ‘Do you think you can patch them up?’ They said, ‘To you sir, that will be £500.’ So they have never been repaired. Life-changer When I was with 2 Para about half a mile outside Port Stanley, I remember thinking, ‘If I can walk up that road without getting shot by the Argentines, I can bore everyone to death for the next 30 years about it’; and so I have. I knew, in a way that very few of us do know, that it would change my life. It was a terrific scoop. Editor A few years later, when I was 39, I was invited to edit The Daily Telegraph; I’d never thought for a moment about being an editor, but you don’t turn down those sorts of opportunities. It was a great privilege and very thrilling, but the strain of editing a newspaper is beyond awful. For three years running when I was on holiday in Scotland I had to charter a plane to come back for some great crisis. Fishing I love the fact that now I can go and cast a fly (box, pictured) on a river without always being haunted by the thought, ‘Oh God, what might be happening back at the office?’ Whenever I catch a salmon I always look up at the sky and think what pleasure it would have given my father to see me do it, because he was a very keen fisherman. He was frightfully selfish and never thought to take me with him when I was a boy – but he certainly brought me up to believe that every right-thinking Englishman should fish, shoot and preferably play three quarters of an hour each way against the Germans.

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