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During the war, when his spinal curvature rendered him unfit for military service, he served in the London Auxiliary Fire Service and was on duty in the City near St Paul's cathedral during the blitz and firestorm that followed. He armed himself intellectually for whatever would follow the war by devouring the work of the great philosophers, Goethe, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Stendhal, Flaubert; a sort of one-man open-university. During the war he had met and married Jean Vipond through a chance telephone conversation, an early virtual relationship that blossomed into a very real one.