I would love to say that writing has always been in my blood, that I was scribbling stories when I was three, but it simply wouldnt be the truth.
I loved reading and my earliest memories of birthday presents from my parents (undoubtedly chosen by my mother!) were of books lovely, shiny pages in books which when you opened them and sniffed near the spine , smelled of new, an indescribable smell, a smell that promised hours of entertainment, of adventure, of travel to any places your imagination could reach.
I think I started to write after my mother told me stories of her remarkable childhood in Malawi where I also was born - and in particular about a revolution that she and her school mates had been caught up in, in the early twentieth century. The flight at night through the hills, the terror, the fatalities , all made a lasting impression on me and I started to write, a page here and a page there. As I grew older and life tossed its usual obstacles and heartaches at me, I began to write short stories which, when I look at them now portray a young womans search for answers to unanswerable questions.
It was during this time that Dr. Bandas government in Malawi took over the familys substantial business and, presumably to keep us docile while they did it, imprisoned my brother without trial, an experience that was to lead to his early death after he was released eighteen months later. I and our six children had to flee the country when news reached us that we were next on the list - terrible experiences that never totally heal.
It is only in relatively recent years that I have come across my old writings. Ive found them folded away in books, in old sets of accounts, in old magazines kept for goodness knows what reasons anywhere it seems, casually put away. I still didnt realise I had the writing bug.
I was far more interested in the passion of my life, playing the piano and singing. I had been singing on stage at school since I was about eight or nine years old and, by the time I was fifteen and still on that stage - I knew that, more than anything else in the world, I wanted to sing. Money or fame never entered my head: I just wanted, or maybe even needed, to sing, When I told my father, he was outraged. Have you any idea what sort of women get onto a stage? he thundered. That was that and I got a similar response to my next choices, surgery and architecture apparently because I would be mixing with boys at university! I went to my room, cried buckets, swore that I would pine to death and wrote instead.
On the subject of broken dreams I would just add at this point that, following my marriage at eighteen, my husband had no objection to my singing and I had a fulfilling though short career in cabaret and on stage. I was asked to lead the cabaret at the ball of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association when they stopped in Malawi en route to Zambia and that of the Lions International Conference the same year. On the academic side, when my youngest son was thirteen and I was in my early forties, I went to college and qualified as a lecturer. I believe that the writing of two dissertations and a postgraduate research qualification gave me my first brutal lessons in how to write.
Eventually, as I found myself writing more and more, I decided to join a writing circle and it was there that I found, to my astonishment, that people seemed to enjoy my writing. Importantly, I was discovering that there are rules, as with any other skill, and I read any books on the subject that I could find.
The first books I wrote were the first two of a trilogy based on my mothers life in Malawi (then Nyasaland) during a turbulent and exciting time the beginning of the twentieth century - and I hope to publish the first of these next year.
Straight from the Donkeys Mouth came from the sadness that I have experienced in seeing the dreams and hopes of the good people of Greece being shattered by their politicians. Our family has a holiday home in a village on an island in northern Greece. The village is close to the one where my father was born and I have come to know the people well. I have watched their children grow up and I have seen them lose their hope in the future. But I hope that I have told the desperately sad story with a light touch and with humour. A dose of depression is the last thing anyone needs and the nature of the Greeks is such that there is always something upbeat, something positive, some kind of fun going on.
I try to fit in a number of hobbies. Photography runs in the family as does cookery. Then theres gardening, painting and sketching, and animal welfare. And of course music and singing.
We have two rescue dogs. Maddie, an archetypical Greek sheep dog was left by the side of the road in a white plastic bag and Calypso (heaven only knows what her mix is) was rescued by our son Francis when he was told by appalled villagers that she, a stray, was about to be hanged for a bit of fun.
I hope you enjoyed reading Straight from the Donkeys Mouth. Please write and tell me if you did!
Check out Esther Harris' article
'How Donkeys Helped Me Understand the Greek Crisis and the Eeyoo' to see what she thought about 'Straight From the Donkey's Mouth'