Friday, 8 March 2013

Desert Island Women

Today is International Women's Day.
There are so many 'days' that you could make following them the sole focus of your life.
We have - apparently - just had 'National Cereal Day' and I even heard something about Pyjamas.
Don't even ask - I am as mystified as you are.
But International (maybe the Inter national is a clue here) Women's Day is something else.

Last year my CyberFriend, Isobel, marked the day on her blog, by paying tribute to some of the women who had influenced her life, and I have often thought of it since.
This year I would like to do the same.

Truthfully, I think they are too numerous to mention, but you have to start somewhere, and it is not far-fetched to say that these women's hands have helped shape the helix of my DNA. For that, I would like to thank them.

Rumer Godden with one of her beloved Pekingese

Perhaps I would have been a writer, no matter what. But it was being immersed in the magicical world of books when I was young that made me want to perpetually recreate that magic, and amongst others Elizabeth Goudge, Rumer Godden, Louisa May Alcott, Kathleen Wendy Peyton, Edith Nesbit, Rosemary Sutcliffe, Mary Noel Streatfeild, Frances Hodgson Burnett, the Bronte sisters, Georgette Heyer, Daphne du Maurier, Monica Dickens and Barbara Timewell were amongst my formative fairy godmothers. Later the influences ballooned and it would be hard to isolate a few names (though I'm sure I will do so, after this has been posted).

When you are a child, pictures can lead you into another world as surely as words, though they are not always necessary if your imagination is constantly straining at the bit. But, like most people, I have loved some books purely for their illustrations and discovered others through my son's eyes; and the images they have created in my head will be there forever. Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone, Shirley Hughes, Jane Ray, Nicola Bayley, Cicely Mary Barker, Sheila Moxley and Margaret Tarrant are just some of the illustrators who have hugely enriched my life.

The Young King by Anne Grahame Johnstone - 'borrowed' from My Christmas Book of Stories & Carols pub by Award

And then of course, there is the poetry. Where to begin with poetry? Well why not with Carol Ann Duffy or Elizabeth Jennings, with Mary Oliver or Dorothy Parker, Carole Satyamurti, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, HD, Kathleen Coates, Jenny Joseph, Edna St Vincent Millay, Christina Rossetti - Ruth Fainlight, Diane Wakoski, Maura Dooley, I could go on and on...

Next it would have to be images. I couldn't exist without beautiful images. But if I was lost with the poet-list, I'm really sunk now, there are just too many, so perhaps I should keep this even more personal. Some of the images that make my life special every day have been created by Annabel Langrish, Hilda van Stockum, Heidi Wickham, Sarah Brecht and Sylvia Ripon. 

My treasured portrait of Top Dog by Sarah Brecht

And so far I haven't even included the women who make me laugh, like Sue Perkins, Jo Brand and Victoria Wood; the ones whose gardens have inspired me - Beth Chatto, Vita Sackville West and the Empress Josephine who bred so many roses; the ones who have filled life with small inspirations, like Francine Lawrence and Susy Smith - both editors of Country Living Magazine; the Hildegardes, Dame Julians and (again) Elizabeth Goudges who open up avenues into inspirations of other kinds; the Sandi Toksvigs, WTFs and Kirsty Warks for their ascerbic commentaries; the Audrey Hepburns, Yasmin le Bons and Sandra Bullocks of this world who are just hopelessly beautiful; the Candace Bahouths, Laura Ashleys and Tricia Guilds for exploding me into colour and pattern way back when; the Ella Fitzgeralds, Lesley Garrets and Rebecca Fergusons who make me wish I could sing; or the Svetlana Beriosovas, Marie Ramberts and Darcy Bussells who make me wish I could dance.

And then, of course, there is my mother, who taught me the joy of the little things in life.

My mother - from whom I also learned to love animals

I don't think Kirsty Young would let me take this amazing crowd to my desert island, but - in a way - I'd be taking them all anyway.
Thank you, wonderful women.


  1. What a wonderful post celebrating all those great women. Many are heroines of mine too.
    Love the photo of your Mum and also the painting of Top Dog.
    Happy International Women's Day.

    1. Thanks Mairead.
      They are both lovely pictures, aren't they?
      Happy IWD to you too!

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you, Eileen - I'm glad you liked it. It's nice to acknowledge some of the women who have helped to make me what I am

  3. I did enjoy this, and I think it is a useful and salutary exercise for us to remember those who have influenced us, men and women. But especially women, who are so often sidelined in history, yet who shape us from the cradle.
    Your mother's cat reminds me of Mr Tom who is a cat needing a home, rescued and taken to Hamilton's Cat Fund, which is also run by two women.

    1. Thank you for the inspiration, Isobel! Loved your post last year. Yes,I agree - well, everyone would have to agree - women have until very recently been sidelined in history.

      I hope Mr Tom finds a home soon. The cat around my mother's neck was called Leo, all those long years ago. There have been many much loved felines (as well as dogs) since then!

  4. Wonderful blog. Totally cheered me up.

  5. A great blog post...and someone else that knows who Sue Perkins is!

    1. Thanks Val. Definitely know who Sue Perkins is! Doesn't everyone?!

    2. I met her last year in the flesh. She was lovely. I got her autograph for a teenager who was having a bad time.

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