10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Me…

1. I was an only child until I was nearly eight so I read voraciously for companionship. First I devoured books by Enid Blyton, then the What Katy Did series by Susan Coolidge, followed the Little Women series by Louisa May Alcott. Then came adventure stories such as Treasure Island and Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson and Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. I moved on to novels by the Brontes and Dickens by the time I was eleven and continued to read classics throughout my teenage years. My parents never tried to censor my reading, for which I owe them huge thanks. I absolutely lived inside my own head and I’ve never lost this habit, being happy to spend weeks on my own without speaking to anyone (though I seldom get the chance now). I do most of my reading in the bath because it’s pretty much the only place I can escape to for a couple of hours without being disturbed.

2. I travelled around Europe every summer from the age of nine with an elderly great-aunt. She was childless so I was a kind of surrogate granddaughter, but she had very little idea about how much freedom a nine-year-old should have. Consequently, I spent a lot of time wandering freely around unknown European cities and I’m amazed looking back that no harm ever befell me. By the time I was 13, and she was older and more scatterbrained, I was in charge of passports, money and tickets. We sometimes did those whistle-stop 16-European-countries-in-21-days coach tours and I met lots of amazing and eccentric people.

3. Probably because of this travelling experience, my parents allowed me at age 16 to get on a bus alone in Newcastle upon Tyne, travel down to London, get on a coach, make a ferry crossing over the English Channel, get on another coach down to Lyons in France and stay for three weeks with a French family we knew nothing of. I did this without the small safety net of a mobile phone, as they didn’t exist in 1983. My French improved considerably as the family wouldn’t speak any English to me and I totally recommend this language immersion technique.

4. I was brought up as a Catholic with church every Sunday and went to an all girls convent school run by nuns. My parents disowned me when I left home for university because I stopped going to Church. (They have since forgiven me.) Some of the travels with my aunt were based around visiting sites of pilgrimage, so I’ve been to Lourdes several times, as well as Lisieux, Assisi, Rome and the like. I saw lots of dead saints lying in glass coffins and relics of fingers and such like. This may have affected me in strange ways, I’m not sure. I was privileged to be alone with my great-aunt when she died, and was pleased that all those nights she said her Prayer for a Happy Death in hotel rooms before she went to sleep paid off in the end. I’m an agnostic/atheist now although I’m open to being proved wrong.

5. I learned French, German, Italian, Latin and Ancient Greek at school, most of which I’ve forgotten. However, we were not allowed to study technical drawing because our headmistress, a nun, did not think it was a ‘ladylike’ subject, and whole sections about reproduction and contraception were cut out of our biology books. This may or may not explain why I have four children.

6. I lived in Hong Kong for four years after university, first teaching English both in an international school and privately, and then working as a financial editor for big investment banks such as Schroders, Swiss Bank and Warburgs. After that, I moved to London to work for one of these companies, which was ironic because as a child I swore I would never do ‘boring stuff like work in a bank’, or move ‘down south’ and live in London. Just shows what I knew…

7. I’ve been married twice and have four children aged 12, 18, 21 and 23 — three boys from my first marriage and a girl from my second. I absolutely love them to bits and like most parents would give my life for them. But in parallel, I also think that next time around I will remain single and childless and spend my life travelling and writing, because that sometimes looks extremely attractive.

8. I’ve been a vegan for about two and a half years, having been a vegetarian for about five years before that. My middle son went vegetarian at his own choosing aged three, so he was the trailblazer. The family is now split down the middle into three omnivores, one veggie and two vegans (me and middle son). It was discovering that the egg industry grinds up male baby chicks alive that turned me vegan(apologies to anyone who didn’t know that). I’m the kind of person who will rescue ants and ladybirds who stray into my house so the chick thing was shocking. I’m generally a left-y, Green-y sort of person, possibly in revolt against working in financial institutions when I was young.

9. I’m currently reading Vagabonding by Rolf Potts and am plotting my escape to travel the world as soon as my youngest child goes to university. I’m hoping to drag my husband along with me but I worry slightly that, because we’ll be 56 and 66 by then, we may be ‘zimmering’ our way rather than backpacking. I guess once you’ve been bitten by wanderlust you never really lose the bug.

10. As an adult, I have never won money in a writing competition or submitted anything for publication. Stephen King says,

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.”

I hope one day when I earn my first £10 for writing, I can say honestly,
“I’m a professional writer”.

This is continuing fellow Ninja Lisa Wilton’s article revealing 10 things we didn’t know about her:


And the challenge was also taken up by Ninja Danielle Nolan:


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