Thinking of the first day you walked through the Merton Lodge arch as a student, what was your first impression?
Disbelief that I was actually there, the sense of beauty and history, and huge excitement and nervousness (like many students then, I did the entrance exam after A-levels, so was sure I had forgotten any history I ever knew). And missing my cat.
Do you have a particular memory that stands out from your time at Merton?
Too many to mention, but rowing was pretty extraordinary – I had never done anything remotely like it, and remember the freezing walk down to the river in the early mornings in the winter, the wonderful feeling when for short periods it actually all came together, and being coached occasionally by none other than Jesse Norman (1981), now MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire, and Financial Secretary to the Treasury.
Tell us something about yourself that we would not know.
I have a secret life as an 18th-century musical mechanical elephant (on Twitter, at least).
What tips would you give your younger self to prepare for the career you have achieved?
Have confidence in yourself, build your working relationships with kindness and honesty, be curious, be a good listener, and never turn down an opportunity – I nearly missed out on my curatorial career by wondering whether I should accept the offer of a job at the British Museum.
Describe Merton in three words.
Liberating, eye-opening (in every sense), life-long friendships