Q. Which other EAFOL 2016 participant are you most excited about?
It will be wonderful to meet such a huge variety of participants, and I’m especially looking forward to meeting Helen Dunmore, whose books I love, and Anchee Min, who I saw at last year’s Jaipur literature festival. She is an amazing character, strong and brave and passionate, and she even sang to us from one of Madame Mao’s operas! I’m a big fan of Robert Lindsay, I’ve seen him in several stage plays and particularly enjoyed his flamboyant performance in Power, which was set at the court of the Sun King. It will be exciting to meet him!
Q. Which book(s) are you reading now?
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. I’m looking forward to meeting her as well! Having lived in Dubai on and off for more than 40 years, I am interested in the art of falconry and hunting with Salukis. I hope Helen brings some photos of Mabel, her Goshawk, with her!
Q. Which literary character would you invite to dinner? And why?
I would love to have dinner on the river with Ratty from The Wind in the Willows. I am sure he would be a most delightful companion, he would tell me stories of his friends who live in the woods and in the river bank, and the picnic hamper would be filled with all sorts of tempting delicacies. I would do my best not to upset the boat as Mole did though!
Q. There have been some interesting additions to the dictionary over the years. Which word would you remove?
I’d remove the phrase “bear with me”. You always know you’re in for a long wait whenever anyone says that, particularly on the phone, in which case it’s usually followed by interminable strains of Greensleeves. At least it’s provoked gales of laughter when uttered by Tilly in Miranda Hart’s comedy series. “Bear with, bear with,” she says, as she answers her mobile!
Q. Who would write/ illustrate the story of your life?
I think my son Alexander would do a good job. He has written some entertaining accounts of his travels to far flung parts of the world, and he has a very good memory, although he would need some input from his sister and my best friend as well. I love Christian Birmingham’s beautiful pastel illustrations, but I think Korky Paul’s witty caricatures would probably better suit my life and Alexander’s style of writing! (I’m looking forward to seeing Korky again too!)