Allow me to introduce you to Nina and Sebastian Rocha, my niece and nephew. Sadly we don’t get to see nearly enough of each other because I live in England and they live in Brisbane, Australia. Anyway, when they saw that I had a new book out, they decided to interview me. Here’s what they asked and what I answered!
1. What are your hobbies?
There are loads of things I love to do! Writing poems, obviously. Making random bits of artwork. I’m a huge music fan and I love going to live gigs and music festivals. Over the years I’ve messed around with playing a bit of piano, flute, harmonica, African drums and ukulele (all quite lazily if I’m honest so I’m not much good at any of them!). I’ve always been passionate about travelling, too. I’ve backpacked in lots of different countries, from Australia to Zimbabwe, and there are so many more places I can’t wait to visit. It’s a big, beautiful, world out there!
2. What’s your favourite colour?
3. What’s your favourite food?
Most of it! Seriously. I come from a food-obsessed family. The only things I really don’t like are sweetcorn and offal (that’s stuff like liver and kidneys and tripe – gross!). Oh and marmalade (which isn’t gross but I still don’t like it).
4. When you were working on the book, what were the hardest and easiest things to write?
The poem ‘Troubled’ was quite hard to write because it’s about my grandad who sadly died when I was five. We were great pals and I missed him a lot. The poem is a bit sad but it’s also quite funny too.
Easiest? Probably ‘Important Instructions’. It’s a very short and simple poem.
5. Would you prefer a dog or a cat?
When I was growing up we had four dogs, several cats, a donkey and a few goldfish. So right now I’m happy to take a rest from looking after animals. I remember I once asked my mother if we could get a lion cub, and when she said no I thought she was being totally unreasonable.
6. What was your favourite sport at school?
Getting out of doing sport! I wasn’t what you’d call a sporty kid. These days I love hiking and swimming (especially in the sea). Last year I did some sea kayaking in Tofino on Vancouver Island in Canada, which was amazing (we saw black bears on the shore!). I love dancing too, does that count?
7. What are three things you can’t live without?
The people I love. A sense of possibility. English breakfast tea.
8. If money was no object, what would you do?
Quit my day job. Buy a lovely house with a garden big enough to plant apple trees in. Invest in something clever and use the interest to set up some kind of charitable trust. Travel all over the world. Fly business class (first class looks a bit too snooty, but I would like to be comfortable and lie down). Spend a lot more time with my family in Australia. Have time to write more books.
9. What’s your best memory?
Crikey that’s a really hard question. I have so many fond memories it’d be impossible to choose just one. Or even ten. A lot of my happiest memories are from my travels, and of some amazing gigs and music festivals I’ve been to. Seeing the singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen perform live in Montreal was pretty special (so special that I went to see him eight more times after that!).
10. How many times did you get the cane at school?
None! They didn’t use physical punishment at my school, thankfully. But I did get into trouble quite a bit and almost got expelled twice. I wasn’t a bad kid, it was more about rebelling against having too many restrictive rules and not enough personal space at boarding school.
11. Have you ever felt excluded?
For sure. I grew up with twin sisters and when I was a kid I often felt like they had a special relationship that I could never be part of. But that changed as we got older and we’re all very close now (even though they both live in Australia!). Also, our family was kind of the ‘weird’ family in the neighbourhood. My parents did lots of things differently from other people and so I sometimes felt like we weren’t ‘normal’ and wished we could just blend in a bit more. Sometimes it takes a while to realise it’s okay to be different, to be yourself.
12. What rude word are you most likely to say?
The next time we see each other, I’ll whisper it in your ear.