Peddling the Past with Adam Hart-Davis

History was one of the few subjects that I really disliked at school. I don't know whether this was because I had poor teachers or whether all the kings, queens and dates we had to learn were inherently tedious, but I remember a memorable report when I was about eleven; in the history exam I had achieved just 3 per cent. I promised my parents I would try harder next time, and in the next history exam I managed 63 per cent, but I failed to sustain the effort, and in due course I also failed O-level history. I still recall the laconic postcard from my housemaster: `You pass everything except history.'

I remained uninterested in history until July 21st, 1990. At that point I was working as a producer at Yorkshire Television in Leeds - I had been making science programmes there for fourteen years - and I had decided that I was too old and fat to go on playing squash, because fat old men die on the squash court. So I went and bought a mountain bike, choosing pink and yellow in order to be visible and stay alive. My plan was to ride to work two or three times a week from my home in Heckmondwike, and so get fit and thin, like those chaps in bike shops. However, what happened was that the bike failed to change my shape; instead it changed my direction, and turned me into a presenter.

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