Ask Marina Wheeler her most vivid childhood memories and she will recount a supper where she, her sister and parents took turns to say what they were good at. When it was the turn of her mother, Dip, her father, Charles, prompted her: “You are good at cleaning the lavatory.” A frustrated stay-at-home wife, Dip did not appreciate the joke. Instead she stood over him and insisted he take it back or she would pour ketchup on him. He carried on laughing so she did the deed. “It really was something seeing his shock and all this red gloop over his white hair,” Wheeler says. “I didn’t know I had it in me,” her mother told her afterward.
Her father was Charles Wheeler, then based in Brussels as the BBC’s Europe correspondent and a household name as one of Britain’s most distinguished foreign correspondents. Now, decades later, both her parents have died and Marina has written a book about her mother. “I wanted to bring her out of the shadows of my famous father,” she says.