Stella Rimington: ‘I fell into intelligence by chance’

The 86-year-old novelist and former head of M15 on the Blitz, claustrophobia – and a new lease of life in her marriage

My childhood was disturbed and frightening. I was four when we left London as the Second World War broke out. We lived in Barrow-in-Furness as the Barrow Blitz commenced: hiding under the stairs, windows were blown out and ceilings fell down. One night it was so bad we had to walk through the bombs to an air raid shelter.

Claustrophobia plagued me into adulthood. I struggled to sit in the middle of rows and always stood by the door on the underground. At all times I needed an exit route. Nowadays, you’d see a therapist for help, but back then you just pushed through it.

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