Sunday, May 12, 2002

Fay Weldon / This much I know / There's a time and a place for everything

Fay Weldon
Fay Weldon

This much I know

There's a time and a place for everything 

Fay Weldon, 70, writer, on the lessons she has learnt in life

Jonathan Heawood
Sunday 12 May 2002 01.57 BST

There's a time and a place for everything - even incest and morris dancing - in fiction.
Therapists say you should learn to live independently after a break-up: not rush into another relationship. Are they mad? Turn your back on God's gift and it may never come again.
Children will call their teacher a fascist because he makes them do things they don't want to, and Hitler called himself a socialist. I'd always prefer a funny fascist to a serious socialist.
When I arrived in London I saw the city as a challenge. I think I've won.
In autobiography you put a kind of shape on to the life. In the first half you set all the questions, and in the second half you answer them.

Which came first, chicken or egg? The egg. You can't go to work on a chicken. Of course I didn't write Go To Work On An Egg. But it's a long and boring story and no one has the patience for it - not even me.
Yesterday's boys are today's girls, guarding their sensibilities and their virtue against predatory attack, demanding commitment, affection and babies.
True creative freedom is these days reserved for children's authors, their editors silenced and their marketing departments struck dumb by the unexpected success of Harry Potter .
The media wears you out, there's so much of it. But it's our only protection against government.
People long for literature to be pure and writers to live in garrets, but someone has to do it, someone has to be morally responsible for society, and the bishops are a bit flaky these days.
Yesterday's truth is today's lie. Ibsen gave the process 20 years and he was right. Feminism started as a revolution, succeeded, and turned into an orthodoxy.
I once killed two friends of the family by putting them in a swimming pool with a diving board but no way out. I could get addicted to playing The Sims, although the game is limited by the imagination of its creators. They have a suburban idea of luxury.

I know that I'm a real writer because sometimes I write a short story just because I want to; not because someone's told me to.
Nothing stops me writing except flu.
A little recognition always goes a long way. Getting my CBE was like a school prizegiving. We stood in a queue with the other great and good, and we chatted a lot and were asked to be quiet by the footmen. (It is possible for the great and the good to become extremely noisy.) The Queen said: 'I believe you write television plays,' and I said: 'I write anything I'm asked, Ma'am.' I have been a royalist ever since.
Women always feel the need to apologise for the weather, as if it was their fault.
I write in short paragraphs because when I began there were always children around, and it was the most I could do to get three lines out between crises.
Learn to write with a computer. I've only recently begun to use a keyboard. It happened because I read one of my own stories in an anthology of mostly American writers, and my handwritten piece seemed gnarled and twisted compared to the easy flow of the other writers who I realised all used computers. So I decided gnarled and twisted was not the path of the future. I've yet to see if it makes much difference to my style.
I would write another sponsored novel [like The Bulgari Connection] if the opportunity came and I could do it with a degree of integrity. A young male Belgian writer has just finished a book sponsored by Harley-Davidson and is getting rave reviews, so it can be done, but not often. Companies have to choose their writer very carefully.
The only historical figure I identify with is Patient Grisel in The Canterbury Tales - a forlorn and self-pitying figure who came to a bad end.
I crave nothing but constant love and attention.


Saturday, May 11, 2002

Life and style / Kathryn Williams / I look like a fish when I sing

Kathryn Williams

"I look like a fish when I sing"

Rosanna Greenstreet

Saturday 11 May 2002 01.59 BST

Kathryn Williams was born in 1974. Her father was a folk singer in the 1960s. After doing an art degree she, too, began songwriting and performing. In 1998, she set up Caw Records, and released a mini album, Toocan. The following year, her Dog Leap Stairs album won critical acclaim, and, in 2000, Little Black Numbers gained her a Mercury Music Prize nomination. She is married, and lives in Newcastle.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Happiness isn't a continuous state: it happens in small amounts of time, and that's what keeps me going.
What is your greatest fear?
That people who love me don't love me any more.
Which living person do you most admire?
Bob Dylan as a writer, but he might be a bad person, so Arundhati Roy, who has stopped doing what she does so well to do something she believes in.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Impatience. Next question please.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Arrogance, two faced-ness, vanity.
What vehicles do you own?
A car.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I look like a fish when I sing.

Where would you like to live?
Somewhere with a garden.
What is your favourite smell?
Water boiling on a cooker (it reminds me of my gran's house).
What is your favourite fantasy?
A quiet life.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Conventional beauty.
Have you ever said 'I love you' and not meant it?
A man took me to Paris, and I came back engaged, just to be polite.
What is your greatest regret?
My gran never seeing me sing.
When and where were you happiest?
Every Saturday breakfast, reading papers, radio, Neil and the cats.
What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
A garden or a private jet.
What keeps you awake at night?
My cat standing on my chest.

How would you like to die?
Without knowing.
Do you believe in life after death?
Only when thinking about people who aren't here any more.
How would you like to be remembered?
With affection.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
TV will survive you.

Sunday, May 5, 2002

Peter Ustinov / This much I know / Children are close to the mystery of birth and old people are close to the mystery of death

Peter Ustinov

Peter Ustinov
(1921 - 2004)

This much I know

Children are close to the mystery of birth 
and old people are close to the mystery of death

Sir Peter Ustinov, 81, actor and writer, Vaud, Switzerland

Geraldine Bedell
Sunday 5 May 2002 00.47 BST

Being an exile is a huge advantage, if you handle it properly.

I have few regrets. But once, when I was making a film in Israel, I was collecting my breakfast from a buffet when I saw Ariel Sharon coming in the other direction with his tray. I stood back elegantly to let him past, and he went on like an express train. I have always regretted I didn't stick my foot out and send him and his breakfast sprawling.
Immediately I'm interested in something, I feel 10 years younger.
I only found out after my father died how consistently he had been unfaithful. He even stole a girlfriend of mine.
Children are close to the mystery of birth and old people are close to the mystery of death. Those in between are involved with the moment, so that their horizons are much nearer.
Comedy is tragedy that has gone wrong. It's one way of being serious.
When the little boys at my prep school in London wished to be unpleasant, they accused me of losing the First World War because my father was German. When they realised they'd gone too far, they claimed the German trenches had been much more sanitary than the French. But my mother was French, so it didn't really help.
An optimist is someone who realises how grim things are and resolves to try anyway; a pessimist is someone who finds it out anew every morning.
My half-Ethiopian grandmother would tell me the story of the crucifixion when I was a child on her knee. She would describe it as if she had been there, crying so copiously that the top of my pyjamas became wet with her tears and very cold. I've been suspicious of the Bible ever since.

Politicians are like milk that has been forced to float above cream.
I suspect if I'd married my third wife first I only would have been married once. But you can't tell.
Children are born completely without prejudice. So it shows that the basic material is very good.
Technology is developing so fast that the human mind is not ready to take it in. And just as in the 15th century, when explorers were discovering new lands, we are in desperate need of cartographers to make sense of it.
Russia is a country in which 60-year-olds are queueing to play Hamlet, but can't because some 80-year-old is still doing it. So if you're Russian you just carry on working.
Human beings can walk on the moon, but can't make successful airport baggage trolleys.
I tried to keep my second marriage going for so long because of the children. When it broke up, the children said to me, 'Why did you wait so long?'
Why was I always so aggressive about Mrs Thatcher? It's simple: I am a feminist and she isn't.
Education ends with death. Or after, according to your beliefs.

My father wanted me to be a lawyer. I told him I would be an actor, because it's really the same profession but less dangerous to our fellow men.
The only form of patriotism I can really stand is a feeling for the sap in your veins. I can't bear patriotism at anyone else's expense.
Tennis umpires have a code of conduct that makes no concessions to anything other than the stiff upper lip. Why shouldn't a man break his racket if he wants? It's his racket.
How do actors learn their lines? I've played King Lear twice, at four-and-a-half hours a time, and I still don't know.
At school we were asked to name a Russian composer on a general-knowledge paper. The answer was Tchaikovsky, because we had been studying him. I put Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and I was upbraided in front of the whole school for showing off.
The English believe the Germans don't have a sense of humour. But they do; it's just more intellectual.
There was a picture up in my first school of Jesus Christ pointing out the extent of the British Empire. No one would dream of putting up such a picture today, so it shows there is progress.
What would I like on my tombstone? Keep off the grass.