My A-Z autobiography … F for family and for my father, who provided most of it
I’ve got family I haven’t even used yet. Thanks to my father, who was nudging fifty when I was born (and nearly seventy when the above photo was taken), I have two half sisters (first wife) and a brother (second wife) and a stepsister and stepbrother (third wife) and I’d have another four step siblings if they hadn’t firmly told their mother that instead of becoming his fourth wife she’d be far better off living in sin with him. She was eighty-four and he was eighty-eight and I think the novelty rather tickled them both.
My A-Z autobiography … Elephants end the honeymoon
A highlight of our Zimbabwe honeymoon was spending two heavenly days on an island in the middle of Lake Kariba, even if it did mean dragging ourselves out of bed at an unearthly hour to go on a dawn walk on the second morning. The guide told us the path he would follow was used by several young bull elephants to their drinking hole. If he gave the signal we had to get off the path and under cover immediately – the elephants aren’t dangerous, he stressed, but they aren’t domesticated.
I’m not a morning person, but that walk was beautiful. Africa is spectacular at dusk but the cool dawn, tendrils of mist soon to be burned off by a blazing sun which is already sparkling in the last of the dew, is a wonderful time to walk. When the guide hissed “NOW!” I jerked my attention back to my brand-new hubby – only to see him take off at a great rate of knots without a backward glance, vanishing from sight within seconds. The guide and I crouched under some handy undergrowth, and I have to tell you, one of those elephants was *this* close – put it this way, he whipped some leaves off our shelter with his trunk on his way past. It was quite an experience.
It did have its effect on the honeymoon. In fact my heroic (and eventually ex) husband hasn’t lived it down to this day.
My A-Z autobiography … dogs
I was born into a household of 19 dogs (that does include a litter of 9 puppies) and we never had less than 6 while I was growing up. Dog food is cheaper in Africa, and it was a lot cheaper back then. The many dogs that have brought me joy over the years all had distinct personalities, some gentle, some powerful, few as decided as the dog I own now. The most eccentric was one we had in my childhood, which used to lie in wait for passing male pedestrians, then rush up and tear out the seat of their trousers. It cost my mother a fortune in replacements and she was eventually the best customer at every clearance sale and every church fete within fifty miles, to keep a full range in stock. It took a while to dawn on her that the local male population looked on him as an easy, albeit alarming, way of getting new trousers.
When I moved to the UK in 2000 my current dog was too old to go through six months in quarantine, and stayed behind with family. I was suddenly pet-free, for the first time in my life! I built a strong relationship with my garden (other gardeners will have noticed how, when you go out with a watering can, plants actually push out scents in greeting, right?) but eventually even a friendly garden wasn’t enough. At just the right time a friend’s cat produced an unexpected litter of four, and I was given a ginger kitten which learned to walk on the lead, come when called (sometimes) and greet me rapturously when I got home.
Six months ago I finally re-entered the world of the dog-owner, when I rescued a 7 year-old bulldog-cross which has completely turned my world on its head. Sometimes I look back on my quiet, sedate pet-free days with a tinge of regret, and sometimes, especially in winter when I’m walking the dog in a blizzard, the nostalgia is quite overwhelming. More often, when I return home to a dog wriggling from head to foot with delight and a cat, prudently halfway up the stairs and calling a welcome, I realise all over again that my pets have made my house my home.
The characters in our books – how autobiographical are they? My books feature several major characters and a small throng of sub-characters, and a friend reading one of the books remarked that she hoped I didn’t see myself as the tearful Clarissa.
Well, of course I’m Clarissa. I’m all of them, aren’t I? The writer’s world is quite schizophrenic, when you start thinking about it. All, and none.
Experiences from my past are dredged up and assigned to the relevant character as needed in my books, but I am also quite capable of nicking stories from my friends, and dreaming up things that in a better-ordered world would have happened, so as autobiographical clues they should be taken with a judicial pinch of salt.
So I’m not really tearful Clarissa. Not very often, anyway.
As most of the blogs I have read so far are actively plugging books, I shall add that Clarissa appears in the Kindle book Three Four Knock On My Door http://viewbook.at/B00C4FE0TG (She is the only tearful character, the books are light-hearted whodunits.)
My A-Z autobiographical bites.
You probably need to be as old as I am to even remember Dame Beryl Grey. Prima ballerina, first Western dancer ever invited to dance with the Bolshoi Ballet despite the Cold War, who dreamed as a scholarship student of having to save the day at short notice by going on in Margot Fonteyn’s place – and who did, at the age of 14.
She and my mother had been BFF and when she was dancing in Johannesburg as Odette / Odile one year she arranged for me – aged 8 – to be allowed to join the corps in rehearsals for Swan Lake. I dreamed I’d be so brilliant they’d include me as a small, pudgy but astonishingly talented cygnet in the production but not all ballet dreams come true.
Her visit was quite a shock, not only realising how hard dancers have to work at rehearsals, but learning that our house-guest did two hours of exercise before even coming down to breakfast, every day of her life. Every day! I gave up ballet soon afterwards.
My A-Z autobiography … well, autobiographical bites. Some bits will be almost interesting.
Hello! About me – I am about halfway through my life, presuming I am going to be really, really old. Three-quarters if you go with the three-score-and-ten. I live on the beautiful Firth of Forth in Scotland, have a 10 year-old cat on the usual feline shared-ownership scheme, and recently adopted a slightly mad dog. She is barking through the window at a leaf as I type this.
I have one daughter, who is getting married in almost exactly a year, so if I do the A-Z challenge next year it will definitely be wedding-fixated – luckily she lives at the sunnier end of the country so I get weekly summaries rather than hourly updates. When I got married, it was all sorted in 4 months – my hubby made that a condition of acceptance, as I’d ended 2 previous engagements (to other men) and he didn’t want me to have time to change my mind. We’re still friends but not still married.
That’s you up to date on the basics, see you tomorrow