What kind of career’s advice did you get as a young woman?
I don’t remember getting any.
What did you want to be when you left education?
I vacillated between being a heart surgeon and being an actress, but actually chose arts A levels so I guess the heart surgery wasn’t an option by then.
Did your mother work?
She began her career when I was in my early teens (I think).
Love & Relationships:
Do you think getting married is important?
I am in a long term relationship with four grown up children and we have chosen not to marry. Way back in the middle of last century (1980s) this was due to the patriarchal and heteronormative institution that marriage represented. This now all seems rather posturing and hollow in the context of civil partnerships and gay marriage. But I still find the idea of promising how things will be in the future problematic. As it is we celebrate each time we get to a decade of being together – and our 40th is coming up.
What did you dream your future partner would be like when you were a little girl?
I’m not sure I had a partner in mind, apart from all the crushes I had on boys going on the same train as me to their (boys’) school as I went to mine (girls’).
Is your relationship with your partner the same as your parents’ relationship?
I don’t think so. I feel my parents’ (and my partner’s parents’) primary relationship was with The Relationship.
How like your mother are you?
Hmmm, more than I probably care to recognise, and more so not just with age but with the morphing that I and notably she has undergone of late. She is 82.
What are your hopes for any daughters or young women you know?
We have 2 daughters. They and their friends are glorious women; switched on, emotionally intelligent, engaged and astute – and most of them embark on adult life saddled with huge debts from their uni fees. This maddens me. What I hope for them is a life with unclipped wings, and debt represents serious wing clipping. I want them to be able to believe in the value of values (they do), integrity (ditto) and to mind less than is practicable about money and belongings.
Do you bring your son up the same way as your daughter? Do you think boys and girls should be brought up differently?
We also have 2 sons. I am sure I did bring them up differently but subconsciously so: this was the opposite of my intention. But I was also an older and more experienced mother with each successive baby so I wasn’t the same for each of them. I think I have more regrets and would like to revisit the parenting of children nos 2&3 – they are a girl and a boy – which isn’t a nice feeling.
Expectations and Dreams:
Who are your heroines and why?
Doreen Lawrence, for her tenacity and grace.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
I was pretty brave when I gave birth to my 4 children, and I recently went to Malawi for 8 months on my own.
What drives you?
A need to turn the next corner, catch the next adventure, love more, fail better.
What are your values?
Candour, reflection, kindness, noticing, curiosity.
How old are you?
What has been your favourite age to be and why?
I like being 59. I like the fact that being older closes down choices: I’m no longer going to retrain to be a ballerina (or a heart surgeon, come to that). It’s freeing not to feel life is a blank slate waiting to be written on – the pressure! And I wouldn’t want to live without the learning I’ve accrued, often painfully, to get me to where I am now.
Do you think it’s better to be young now than when you were young?
(Or better now than when your parents were young?) I actually think we were the blessed generation in terms of youth. We had free University education, an NHS which had established itself, a sense of collective purpose, expected a lot from our relationships, weren’t scared to take on authority, and believed in our agency. We were lucky.
What are the pros and cons of being a woman?
What have been the biggest challenges in your life?
Self-image – Body or Looks:
Why do you dress the way that you do?
Sometimes to fit in at work. Sometimes to be able to do stuff – yoga, swimming, being outside, cycling. I think clothes are overrated in a way and sometimes go away if I’m staying with people with very few and just borrow theirs (I’m OK with people doing this back).
What would be your musical soundtrack?
I wish I could say “Je ne regrette rien” but it wouldn’t be true. I quite like hymns (counter intuitively), but probably Tim Minchin’s White Wine in the Sun
Do you have a life’s motto?
Yes, and I want it on my headstone: “Why make life simple when with a little bit of effort you could make it really complicated”.