For my third interview I’m delighted to introduce the charming author Kerry Dwyer, who, I think you will agree,would be the perfect companion for a long walk in the country. Time would fly, and you’d wander for miles, wrapt in fascinating conversation!
Yes, I dream. I have quite vivid, detailed dreams. My husband is amazed that I can remember so many details. Sometimes they are about whatever is on my mind at the time. When I was taking my tax exams (in a previous life) I dreamt that I was doing tax calculation after tax calculation. I was so tired and I had to sleep to take the exam the next day. I sat up in bed and shouted ‘I don’t want to do this now!’ and then promptly fell back to sleep. Bertrand still laughs about it
Anyway, I digress, you wanted a recent dream.
I dreamt about my old boss recently. He was not a very nice man and could be quite nasty sometimes. He was big and powerful and always got his way, even if he was being unreasonable, using his size to intimidate people. Everyone was terrified of him. In my dream I had to go to see him about a job reference. I called him and he told me to meet him in London and we would go shopping.
I met him at Brixton tube station. He was wearing a small pink net tutu and nothing else. I wasn’t at all afraid of him, nor was I surprised at his attire. The only thing that struck me was how grey his chest hair was. We walked into the market looking for sweet potatoes. We talked about the fruit and vegetables as though we had done this every day for years. No one stared or seemed in the least surprised to see this large man in a tutu.
All the African women on the market stalls were dressed in brightly coloured clothes with twisted head scarves. Some of them were in printed kaftans or boubous and others wore jeweled tiaras. They were laughing and joking between themselves and the whole atmosphere of the market was relaxed and jovial.
Although I went to Brixton market quite a few times when I was a student in London it was nothing like this. I was very nervous of being there because a lot of hoodie gangs used to hang out there and I was once mugged in the tube station. It is not somewhere I would go through choice.
Once my ex boss and I had found and bought the sweet potatoes we found a man roasting chestnuts on a brazier. We used the brazier to roast the potatoes which we ate with butter and salt. We stood chatting for a while about the people we used to work with and wondering what they were up to. That was it, the image faded.
So I faced two things that I used to be afraid of in the one dream. I can work that out. I have no idea of the significance of the tutu, the tiaras or the sweet potatoes.
What sort of family do you come from? Tell us something about an interesting ancestor.
My family? My parents both worked. I have five brothers. This is too dry, the best way to tell you about the sort of family that I come from is to give you a selection of my earliest memories.
- A protest march through London calling out for the end of the war in Vietnam. My mother taught me to sing ‘Ban the bomb end the war’ and ‘Where have all the flowers gone’ to sing on that march. I think I was about six.
- Watching my parents practice for a production of ‘The Festival of Fools’. We drank lemonade and ate crisps with a blue paper twist of salt in the back of the pub as we watched them rehearse.
- I think we must have gone to every folk club in London to hear the folk heroes of our day singing and to sing of course. My mother sang and played the dulcimer whilst my father played the banjo. We each learned to play an instrument and used to have our band in the back garden on summer days.
- Digging in the allotment and finding that most of our potatoes were full of holes and the snails had eaten all the cabbages. Eating the rest anyway because that was what we had grown. Picking elderflowers on the way home so that dad could make elderflower champagne. He kept it in the cellar and all the corks popped within minutes of each other leaving the cellar sticky and scaring us out of our wits with the noise.
- Creating an art room in the cellar. We printed T shirts with potato prints and later with silk screens. We tie died bags. We bought clay and made pots that mum took to the local college to be fired. Mum showed us how to work with slip to make fine pottery and how to make sculptures with harder clay. Dad bought an old type set printing press. We carefully picked out the little metal letters and set them in the wooden blocks in attempts to print our own newspapers.
- In the summer we would watch the mummer’s plays and Morris dancers in the square. We would go to Padstow in Cornwall to follow the Obby Oss and dance all day and into the night with the sustenance of Cornish pasties. On the same holiday we would walk for hours and hitch hike home in groups. We once hitch hiked a steam train.
- Flying kites in the park on the hill for the day and losing one of my shoes. Walking home on my dad’s feet whilst he held me under my armpits so that the road wouldn’t hurt my feet. I felt warm and loved next to my dad but missed kicking though all the autumn leaves in the gutter with my brothers and singing out ‘these are my leaves’.
Does that tell you enough about the sort of family I had?
As for an interesting ancestor…
I have been thinking recently about my granddad. It was remembrance Sunday last week. I posted on my blog about my maternal granddad. He survived World War II only to be assassinated in Egypt in 1948. His name is on a panel at the National Memorial Arboretum. That might not sound terribly interesting to people reading this. He figured in my life through his absence and his absence in the life of my grandma, my mother and all her brothers and sisters. People can make a huge difference to your life by not being there.
What is your favorite poem? Share part of it with us (ten lines max, please, not the whole of Paradise Lost!) Explain why you like it so much.
My favorite poem of all time has to be ‘The Highwayman’ by Alfred Noyes published in 1906. The first ten lines only? OK – did I tell you I am no good at maths?
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon the cloudy seas
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor
And the highwayman came riding,
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.
He’d a French cocked hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle; his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.
It’s fantastic isn’t it? As you listen to it you can hear him riding, the alliteration is magnificent. You can feel the excitement mounting. It builds up to a crescendo of feeling and you want to weep with his death, and hers, at the end. The splendid use of metaphor and simile…… I could go on praising this poem for its literary quality and the wonderful story. We can read so much into this poem and make of it a whole novel. This is story telling at its best not a word out of place, who says flash fiction is a modern day invention?
I will always hear this poem told with a New Zealand accent. The first time I heard it recited with any degree of enthusiasm was by a very good friend of mine. We were having a Christmas party or maybe New Year’s Eve. We all had to do our ‘piece’ at the end of the evening. I had sung ‘A frog he would a wooing ride’ and then my friend stood up by the fire place, her face glowing with the wine and the good food. The lights were low and the flames played across her face as she receipted it word perfectly. A million times better than my school teachers dry stilted rendition. It brought the poem alive for me.
What (if anything) do you do to keep fit? Describe the most – and least – enjoyable parts of this activity.
I love walking. I get quite agitated if I can’t go out and walk. I walk a small circuit close to my home every day. It takes me round the vines, the sunflower fields, the fields of rape and wheat, past a wood and back home. It is only about four kilometers so it is less than an hour. I can manage it in my lunch break in the winter when the mornings and evenings are too dark.
The most enjoyable part is the feeling of being totally in control and totally free. We learn to walk when we are very small. We don’t need any aids to do it, nothing mechanical no special skills. It’s something that we can do alone or with friends. We can be sociable or unsociable, go fast or slow, go for a short walk or a long walk. You can walk on roads, on footpaths, through forests or up mountains. There is endless variety.
Walking gives you a very different perspective of the world than any other means of travel. You see the world up close and can stop to feel, touch, smell and listen. Things that are missed when driving or even cycling can be experienced when walking.
There are a couple of things I don’t like. Firstly I hate walking in the rain and it does always seem to rain at the weekend especially during the long holiday weekends. Those are the only times I have to go on longer walks. Walking in rain gear, even modern rain gear is no fun. Eventually the rain gets through and you have wet feet or other parts of you are wet because you are sweating so much inside something that is impermeable.
The other thing is getting there. I live in a lovely part of the world, I am very lucky. It is very flat and, after all the years I have lived here, there is little new to see. When I walk at the weekends I venture further and further away from my home, spiraling away from it. The better walks with mountains or even decent hills are miles away and take hours to get to. I can only really do that sort of walking when I am on holiday.
My latest book – Ramblings In Ireland
I have only written one book. The most difficult question to answer is ‘What is it about?’ People think it is going to be about rambling in Ireland for some reason, with maps and details of the fauna and flora of the island. It isn’t about that.
I use the story of a walking holiday in Ireland as the thread on which to hang my ramblings. I use the word in the Freudian sense letting my mind wander where it will. You will find musings on my past, my work, the French, vegetarians, underwear and a lot of other things all vaguely linked to a walking holiday. It is very tangential just like my mind.
Imagine sitting in a pub with a good friend and asking them about their walking holiday. Now imagine that same friend and you have finished a couple of pints of Guinness. There you have it.
Something special – photo
These particular lanterns were lit for a joint birthday party. The party was for me, my friend Antoinette and her father. We often have these lanterns for celebrations. Our French friends think it is lovely too.
I love to see these lanterns in the sky or the ones that people set off across water. They always signify people coming together for some peaceful reason. I like the idea of sending wishes, worries or memories into the sky or across the water. Watching the flame until it becomes a tiny dot and then disappears. That didn’t happen one time. We sent off the lanterns and one got caught up in a neighbour’s tree. So rather than disappearing the flame grew big and bright and we had to call the fire brigade.
Still love those lanterns….
Another special thing
I believe that everyone in the world should have the right to an education. I am an educator; it gives me great pleasure to help people to progress and to learn. I support ‘Room to Read’ which works in primary schools across Asia and Africa to develop literacy skills.
“Literacy unlocks the door to learning throughout life, is essential to development and health, and opens the way for democratic participation and active citizenship.” -Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary-General
Thanks Kerry. A great interview. We’ve covered five miles already without even noticing. Here’s a country pub. Shall we go in?