Monday, 16 March 2009
Thank You's and Tags
In the spirit of the Oscars (ok, ok, so that’s old news now, but you know I’m always late), and because I was brought up to say my Ps and Qs, I just wanted to flag up a few ‘thank you’s. Most recently to Cheshire Wife for electing me as one of the people she was passing the Lemonade award on to, and then, many moons ago, to Dusty Spider and Working Mum for the lovely awards they gave me. I am aware that I haven’t got round to passing them on to anyone and that is, as much as anything as I find it really hard to choose from the many, many writers I know on the blogosphere who are such excellent wordsmiths – all so different and unique – and I feel bad choosing a set few when there are many more just as deserving (I’m afraid I’m not very good with chain emails either, but that’s another story). Added to which, many of those I would have chosen already have the awards. Nuff said.
I have been tagged a couple of times too, but it was so long ago I now don’t remember exactly by whom, although I think Dusty was one of them. Forgive me, I am hopeless. Although another perfectly valid reason for not having rushed to write a post having been tagged is that I find it terribly hard to write about myself. It’s like when someone says, ‘So what did you do at the weekend?’ My mind just goes blank. I KNOW that even I, little me, am marginally more interesting than BLANK, but everything that I have ever done, lived, experienced, breathed, thought or seen just seems to fly out the window at the point at which I am forced to focus on it.
So, where does that leave us exactly? Well, since I’ve been tagged twice and done nothing about it, I am going to attempt to write not seven, but fourteen (gasp) things about myself which may, or may not, throw any light on me. So, if you’re sitting comfortably, here goes:-
1. I loved school and learning and all the camaraderie, sports, music and theatre that it entailed. I ended up being Head Girl at my 1,000 strong sixth form college in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, which was formerly a grammar school, then briefly a comprehensive before its final incarnation as a sixth form college. God knows what it is now, but it’s no longer a sixth form college either. This fact, and getting into Oxford University to study Modern Languages when the tutor coaching us told me I didn’t have a hope in hell, are probably my two greatest achievements. So let’s just say I peaked early and it’s been downhill ever since!
2. My father is a journalist but I originally eschewed his metier to pursue a career in the rather vaguer art of ‘communications’. In the 1980s ‘communications’ barely existed as a concept and Public Relations and Marketing were in relative infancy. My God, think how all that has changed in 20 years! In fact, with all this great new technology, I fear we have communication overload and I am rapidly retreating ever further into my shell having once argued the need for people to share ideas and information fully and easily. These days I feel my synapses exploding every time I open a newspaper or magazine, or turn on the telly or my computer, and am wondering whether inserting myself into an Inuit community somewhere in the Arctic Circle is actually the only answer.
3. I ended up with a patchwork career, mainly in the travel industry, ranging from freelance writing, PR and photography, to magazine editing, brochure production and copywriting. Enjoyed it in the main. My best years were at Abercrombie & Kent Travel. They were free and easy, working with a great team of people, in a great location in central London and I had a reasonably long creative rein and was broadly left to my own devices. Fun.
4. I have lived for a number of years in France and Italy – and Italy were some of the best of my life to date. I was first living in beautiful, historic Padua, with Venice, Vicenza and Verona and Lake Garda on my doorstep and the Dolomites with their stunning pink peaks just a few hours away. Say no more. The second two year stay was Milan – so very different but special in its own way, notably because I had my first child there and it remains one of the best and most memorable times of my life.
5. I have always seemed to be out of the country for the big ‘events’ in recent history: during the Falklands war I was an au pair in France; when AIDS first hit big time over here I was a ski rep in France; I was in Padua for the Gulf War and the Bosnian War (and Margaret Thatcher’s resignation and Freddie Mercury’s death!); then Iraq kicked off again when I was in Milan. My absence from the mother country at such key moments means I have a slightly different memory of and perspective on these world shaping events.
6. Boundaries have a strange prominence in my life. I’m a Gemini, so that’s permanently living on a divide for a start (split personality and all that); I’m an arts-science split, as keen to pursue the one as the other; I was born on the borders of West Sussex and East Sussex; my school year was the last in the county to do 11+ before it was scrapped; ditto I fell between the end of the grammar/secondary school era and the beginning of the ‘comprehensive’ system (and the uncertainty around that led my parents to send me to a small local girls school for ‘O’ levels); my parents moved, when I was 15, to a house on the border of Haywards Heath and Lindfield; my first home in London was on the border of Hammersmith and Ravenscourt Park; my second home in London was on the border of Notting Hill and Bayswater; my third home in London was on the border of Chiswick and Acton; my fourth home in London was on the border of Richmond and Isleworth; my current home is on the border of the Peak District National Park (the field across the lane is in it, we are out of it) and the borders of Derbyshire, Cheshire and Staffordshire. Even my blood group is borderline – I’m neither Rhesus Negative nor Rhesus Positive, but a strange thing called Duffy (not the pop singer) which hovers between the two. And people wonder why I’m indecisive....it’s in my blood, my genes, my stars, my timeline and my geography, for God’s sake! I am doomed…
7. When I was young I would go and watch the British Grand Prix with my father. Mine was the James Hunt era (I went on to work for his brother, an accountant, and still a firm friend – and was actually working for him when James tragically died) and he was a real hero of mine, as were Divina Galica (an ex downhill skier) and Lella Lombardi, the only two women competing with the men in Formula One at that time. I dreamed of being like them. And, glancing around at all the hospitality tents at Brands Hatch or Silverstone, and all the totty teetering around doing the glamorous entertainment thing, I thought ‘And if I don’t end up being a downhill skier or Formula One racing driver, then I’ll go into PR. Looks like fun!’ Well, I did get told once by a ski coach that if he’d met me when I was 15 he could have turned me into a downhill skier, and I did hang around the likes of Martin Bell and Konrad Bartelski with my dad during his many years reporting ski racing, and I did end up working with James Hunt’s brother and meeting James and I did end up in PR too. So, it kinda happened, but not in the way I once envisaged. Nothing ever does, does it? I clearly never really had the hunger…
8. From a young age I always wanted to ride a motorbike. When I was 32 I finally found the time and the money and decided I was too old now not to do it just because it would upset my parents. So I went off and got my big bike licence and my shiny red 750cc Kawasaki Zephyr was my pride and joy. Hopping over the Channel to France and blasting round those blissful D-roads with a bunch of mates were some of the greatest weekends of my life.
9. Oliver Reed once kissed my hand. He was drunk. When I was fifteen my orthodontist made a grab for me and tried to drag me into the bushes for a snog as I was leaving the premises on my bike. He gave me the creeps from the beginning actually – strange dead eyes – and I sometimes wonder what the hell happened to him and how many other young girls he grappled with…
10. I have an irrational fear of being caught in a plague of locusts. Huge, hard flying insects. Nightmare. In fact I’m not good with articulated creatures in general – woodlice, armadillos, earwigs. Uuuurgh. Makes me shudder. I have an equal fear of Jacuzzi baths. As a child I was terrified of sitting down the plug end of the bath and I hated (and still do) the big drains in the bottom of swimming pools. Still won’t stand on them. Just in case. You just have no idea what might be lurking down the other end of that long dark, watery tunnel…In the case of a Jacuzzi bath in a posh hotel once, it turned out to be lots of other people’s pubic hair. I rest my case.
11. I’ve very nosey – although I prefer the word ‘curious’. In fact I decided I wanted to learn French as a child on the basis that I couldn’t bear the idea of holidaying in France with my parents and not being able to earwig conversations and exchanges going on around me.
12. I’m renowned for my ability to chat. But by chatting you find things out about people, places and things which always adds interest to life (and fuels my curiosity…)
13. I can raise my left eyebrow at the same time as lowering my right, but I can’t roll my tongue.
14. Music has always been a large part of my life. As a child I was given the choice of doing piano, ballet or Brownies. Thank heaven I had the foresight to choose piano as something which would enrich the rest of my life, not just the beginning of it. My grandmother was an excellent pianist – up to concert pianist standard, though she never performed – which was undoubtedly an influence. I was also always singing and, over the years, I’ve been in many choirs and musical productions – though not for some time now. And, coming of age in the 80s, all I wanted to be was Bananarama. On which dodgy note, I think it’s time to stop!