I have been tagged by Knackered Mother to answer some personal questions. You have probably noticed I don’t generally play Cyber-tag memes, but I have made an exception for Knackered Mother because I love the fact that each of her posts includes a wine recommendation. Here is a mother who recognises the true reward of parenting. Bedtime.
So here are the questions I’ve been posed;
What experience has most shaped you, and why?
This is an easy one; my son’s death. How could it not? I watched him take his first breath and five weeks later I held him as he took his last. I have changed beyond all measure as a result. I am both more and less tolerant; more understanding of life’s challenges yet less sympathetic of those with trivial issues who lack the context to understand the bigger picture. I am more measured, less hot-tempered, more positive and perhaps even a little fatalistic as a result of his existence. I value each day a little more.
No-one ever really has no commitments, do they? But I suppose this is only a game… So if I didn’t have the children and the chickens and the husband to look after (these are not necessarily in order of importance) and I didn’t have work pressures and a house to clean and friends to see and family to placate, what would I do? I would go for a run, which is when I do most of my thinking and a lot of my mental writing. Then I would come home and take a long luxurious bath, free from interruptions and the sight of plastic ducks. I would take the laptop to my favourite cafe-slash-bookstore and write more of The Novel. I would cook pasta and eat it with one hand while I read one of the many books piled by my bedside.
What food or drink could you never give up?
I could give anything up if I had to or wanted to, but there are many things I would miss. I have a secret penchant for sushi, bred out of weekly visits with a colleague to a favourite Japanese restaurant when I lived in Paris. Occasionally I sneak out of work at lunchtime and guiltily devour sashimi, slinking back into the office smelling of fish. I have abstained from wine for lengthy periods of time; for health reasons, for pregnancy reasons and just because I thought I should. More than the taste I missed the ritual of it; the reassuring escape of air as the fridge seal gives, the clink of the bottle, the splash of the wine into the cavernous glasses bought for me by my mother, who clearly knows the way to her daughter’s heart. I missed sinking into the sofa, children asleep, to enjoy that first sip of Pinot Grigot and know that the evening was mine for a few hours.
If you could travel anywhere, where would that be and why?
India. I once trekked to the source of the river Ganges and was awestruck by all that I saw. People who lived in little more than road-side shacks were quick to offer food and drink. As we complained about our sore feet we were overtaken by men running barefoot up the mountainous paths, driven by their faith to collect holy water for a sick relative. Everything about the experience humbled me.
Who do you have a crush on?
I don’t have crushes, I have children. I have a mortgage. I am not twelve. Although there is this really hot guy at work…
If you were leader of your country, what would you do?
Give me one easy savoury recipe that doesn’t include cheese.
Why on earth would you want to leave out cheese? What a ridiculous question. A ham sandwich.
What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
An actress, a singer, a novelist… something creative, something connected to performing arts. Needless to say I am none of those things and am stifled creatively in my current job on a daily basis. At some stage this probably needs to change.
If you could spend just one day in someone else’s body, who would it be?
I am a white female. I am rarely – if at all – part of a minority group. I tell myself that I can empathise with people who are stared at, ridiculed and avoided because they are different. People who are treated as inferior because they’re in a wheelchair, scarred, missing limbs, black or Asian. I tell myself I understand the prejudice and battles they face on a daily basis and therefore can support them through my own attitudes and my actions at home and at work. But if I took on one of those bodies for a day I think I’d realise it’s a whole different world, and maybe I’d understand just a little more.
Which woman writer – living or dead – do you most admire and why?
This is an interesting question to which I’m not certain I can give a straight answer. There are many female writers whose books I enjoy; Jodi Picoult, Alice Sebold, Daphne du Maurier – even Jilly Cooper gets a place on my bookshelf. But I wouldn’t say I admire them. I respect them for getting published, for creating worlds and characters in which I believe so totally I have to give myself a mental shake when I turn the last page, but I don’t know them – I only know their writing. For admiration of writers themselves I would look to women such as Muslim poet Hissa Hilal, who faces death threats for her poetry railing against injustice and fundamentalism. I would look to those novelists who were forced to adopt male pseudonyms in order to have their work taken seriously by publishers, such as the Bronte sisters and Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot). Finally I would look to writers whose books are timeless, loved by many across generations, such as Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie.
What is your most prized possession?
A battered copy of Swallows and Amazons given to me by my father when I was seven years old. He gave it to me when I had appendicitis and he wrote in the title page “for a poorly girl from her daddy”. I don’t get hung up on possessions, but I wouldn’t like to lose that.