Meet 'annart': an in-depth Interview with Ann, a Hubber of 7 years' Standing
annart aka Ann
Yesterday, I sat down with a friend of mine to find out a little more about her life, her passions and her dislikes. Her hub name is annart; she’s otherwise known as Ann.
I’m a devil for being nosy about others’ lives and sometimes ask too many questions but I just can’t help it! Who doesn’t want to know secrets and fears, successes and failures and how a person ticks?
Ann’s originally from the county of Sussex, in the south of England, specifically a village called Hurstpierpoint, just north of the Downs from Brighton.
In case you’ve never heard of the South Downs, they are beautiful, rolling chalk hills which stretch from Eastbourne in the east to Winchester in the west and support a walker’s paradise, The South Downs Way. From that, to the south you can see the English Channel, to the north is the wide open Sussex Weald with the North Downs in the misty distance. Stand atop Devil’s Dyke and you can see all three!
She now lives in the rural county of Somerset, one of the gateways to the South West of England.
Sports & Interests
Sports loving, playing tennis, badminton and netball in school as well as with family and friends, Ann loved climbing trees when in tomboy mode, couldn’t wait to learn to drive and adored walking in the countryside over her beloved Downs and Weald.
Several visits to France lit the spark of a foreign language before tuition at school. Her interest in driving led to going straight out on the road the day after her 17th birthday, later rallying with a local motor club and, much later in life, learning to ride a motorbike. She still loves driving (currently an old Subaru Forester) and riding (a Honda 125).
I put the following questions to Ann and she answered cannily, with warmth when talking of her family and high points and with candour when explaining setbacks and failures.
So grab a coffee, sit back and find out a little more about your co-hubber.
We know you’re a writer but how did you come to love writing?
It’s in my genes, even in the pockets! Dad wrote and directed plays, penned technical articles about optometry and loved concocting stories. His passion was photography and the two skills marry so well. His enthusiasm rubbed off; we were always on the same wave-length so it made sense that we shared and loved the same things.
My love of the English language meant that I enjoyed reading and writing stories well before the age of 10, also encouraged by an enlightened primary teacher who was what would now be considered as totally un-PC. He smoked at his desk by the door of the classroom, threw chalk and blackboard rubbers at us if we were talking too much, had no respect for the head teacher who terrified us all (and therefore made him even more popular) and he also had a passion for English. Because he recognised that same passion in me we got on famously.
Writing poetry came much later, in adulthood, when I grew to appreciate it more and realise its potential for saying so much in so few words; somehow it pinpoints the emotions more directly.
What do you like to write about?
I find inspiration from my life’s experiences, from my career as a teacher and from my knowledge of a variety of subjects. Something on the news might spark a sudden interest or inspire me to voice my opinion. My family, especially the grandchildren, provide me with endless ideas for stories or social comment. Seeing life through the eyes of a child gives you such a fresh outlook.
A School for Dyslexics in the heart of Somerset
As a Teacher
I’ve taught right across the age range. As I'm a retired teacher of Literacy, hubs on dyslexia come at the top of my list. I like to publish help and advice for dyslexics themselves, for their families and teachers, promoting a positive approach, concentrating on the person’s strengths.
My best years of teaching were in an independent specialist school for dyslexics, working in a mediaeval manor house surrounded by verdant grounds in a Somerset village. I had small groups or 1 to 1 classes. It was the most rewarding job I’ve ever done.
TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) is another string to my bow. I obtained my diploma and taught at an English Language School in Gloucester Road, London. That experience taught me far more about teaching than any college lectures ever did!
Having classes of mixed nationalities means that you have to teach using lots of visual aids, repetition, games and humour. Iranians, Japanese, Spanish, French and Indians all in one class presented a challenge which I thoroughly enjoyed. It gave me the skills to help my foreign dyslexic students later too.
I write about things which annoy or niggle me, like bad grammar, social injustices and corruption in business and politics. I hear or see something and that prompts me to react and more than often to write.
Other topics are nature, family and anything which grabs me and reels me in. It may be a beautiful scene, a remarkable bird, a good deed from a stranger or funny words and phrases from my grandchildren. An event such as the 2014 centenary of the start of WW1 can kick-start a million thoughts in my mind; then I have to let those thoughts flow onto screen. The final published article might be miles from my initial draft but the catalyst is there.
What I like to Do
What do you do when you're not writing?
Take hundreds of photographs! Every time I venture forth from my home I study people, nature, architecture, weather, shapes, art. There is so much around us that many miss or take for granted.
The wonders of the world are right on our doorsteps. We look down at our feet, lost in contemplation; we should look up to the rooftops, to the skies, look around us. It's amazing what's right there in front of us.
I spend as much time as possible with my children and grandchildren. They are a source of constant joy, fun and worry! I hate to be away from them for more than a few days. Thank heaven for texts and emails.
The most therapeutic of my pastimes is drawing and painting but I have to be in the mood; I can leave it for months then take it up again when the inspiration strikes.
Well, travel is exciting, learning about new cultures, visiting beautiful locations. My partner and I are trying to pack in as much as possible before we are too old to move!
I still enjoy driving despite our crowded roads. There’s nothing like an open, gently winding road to oneself where you can put your foot down, wind up the music and sing your heart out! Riding a motorbike is a different thrill; wind-in-the-hair stuff and the added kick of a little more danger.
Pottering in my garden is relaxing. I have little expertise and know none of the Latin names for plants but I do know what I like; magnolias, nerines, cornflowers, hisbiscus and, above all, daffodils. Give me a bunch of daffies and I’m in heaven. Must be something to do with being born in the spring. I’m a May baby and it’s my favourite month because it’s full of burgeoning plants, heralding the warmth of summer.
I still love tennis but don’t have the opportunity to play as much but interrupt me watching Wimbledon at your peril! Walking, exploring and visiting my beloved Sussex now and then is perfect for me. Family, though, is all.
Do you have an interesting cultural background?
I'm not sure what that question means but I am patriotically English. I have good friends who are Scottish, Welsh and Irish but I am English through and through, with a passion.
We don’t stand up for our nation enough. The others fly their flags but we pragmatic English are not so good at stating our importance. I have an English flag in the garden which is sometimes mistaken for a football allegiance (I hate soccer but love rugby!); it’s there because I love my country.
Are there any obstacles you've overcome?
Not any more. I’ve had plenty in the past; two failed marriages, a failed business.
I’m lucky in that I’ve always had good health. That's why I like to help local charity groups like Cancer Research and anything to do with Parkinsons research (my Dad had that).
Life is good now. Actually, life is wonderful. I have my soulmate, my two gifted and successful daughters and their husbands and five fun-filled, kind grandchildren. April 2015 saw the birth of my third granddaughter, so the tally is now 3 girls and 2 boys. They are my delight and I’d die for them.
Music & Laughter
Any pet hates? No, Let's be Positive
Aside the obvious like cruelty and corruption, I can’t stand unkind, rude and arrogant people. There’s no need for being like that. It’s not unreasonable to expect others to treat you with some respect.
I’m a bit of purist when it comes to language. Those in the public eye (politicians, presenters and the like) should be able to talk well, use good grammar and have personal and social skills.
I’d prefer to talk about positive things, though, like who makes me laugh, what music and films I enjoy. Michael Macintyre is a comedian who has my sides aching, Motown and Rock ‘n’ Roll make me want to dance. Good entertainment like ‘Mama Mia’, ‘High Society’ and ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ are great for a Sunday evening’s relaxation but one of my favourite films is ‘The Italian Job’, the original with Michael Caine, a superb actor.
What's your view on life?
Life truly is what you make of it. You can grab it by the collar or you can let it slip by. Work hard, be optimistic, fight anything which tries to push you under! Perseverance and determination go a long way.
It’s important to use your talents, make the most of opportunities and learn as you make your way, as you make your mistakes. You’ll live with the mistakes as long as you don’t repeat them, as long as you forgive yourself and move on.
In the film version of your autobiography, who would you like to play yourself?
Audrey Hepburn, without a doubt. I’ve never been anywhere near as good looking as she was, though I was once almost as slim! It’s just that she’s my idol, she had a lovely soft voice, she was a kind person and her rôles were usually fun-loving and gentle. She was so glamorous, a bit of a tomboy, frivolous, genuine, sincere and loving; all the things I’d like to be!
What quality or talent do you wish you could cultivate?
I’d like to speak more languages, especially Italian. I speak fluent French but feel I should stretch my abilities as I have a good ear for accents and language.
I should also develop my artistic talent; I’ve painted in watercolours and I love using pastels, sketching and doing pen and ink drawings. I always make an excuse as to why I don’t do any of those regularly, so it’s time I devoted some hours to them now that I’m retired.
Being kinder, more tolerant and reaching out to others more would be good. I was a shy child and teenager so didn’t develop the social skills which help us to look out for those with whom we share this earth. I should’ve been more aware of the world and that’s what I try to be now.
Who is your favourite fictional character ever?
That is such a difficult question. I love the fiery nature of Elizabeth Bennett in ‘Pride and Prejudice’, and the passionate, kind nature of Elinor in ‘Sense and Sensibility’ (both by Jane Austen) but I suppose my favourite would be Jane of ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte. She was strong, passionate, loyal and had a deep insight into human nature. Her love for Rochester made her travel through toil and torment to find him and to stay by his side. I’m an eternal romantic and believe in the existence of a soulmate for each of us.
If you could have the career of any author, who would it be?
Jacqueline Wilson, who is a popular and successful English author of children’s books. She was Children’s Laureate from 2005-07 and was born in Bath, not far from where I live. Millions of copies of her books are sold around the world and she often judges children’s writing competitions. Her most successful titles are the ‘Tracy Beaker’ books, ‘Girls in Love’ and ‘Double Act’.
Her stories appeal to young teenagers. Ms Wilson remains seemingly unaffected by her fame, her feet firmly on the ground. She is always approachable, willing to help young writers and give advice on how to succeed.
What inspires you?
My family, family history and our stunning countryside. My sister and I (mostly her) have investigated our family tree and it has unearthed some fascinating stories. Our paternal grandfather worked as a Home Guard interrogator during the war and unearthed information regarding the Great Escape. We believe he worked under cover when working with the National Coal Board as he spoke fluent German and High German. He was in Germany in 1933, supposedly on holiday with my father; when he came back he expressed his concern about the Nazi Youth Camps. Granddad was on the Nazi black list and constantly looking over his shoulder until the day he died. I adored him; he made me laugh and never minded spending hours amusing me with games and jokes.
My father was, and continues to be even after his death, an inspiration; I talk to him often. My mother’s cousin inspired me to learn French, play tennis, apply myself to learning and, by example, be a more tolerant person.
My mother taught me the importance of tolerance, gentleness, good manners and a sense of humour. We all laughed a lot together.
The beauty of nature never fails to amaze and delight me. A majestic Horse Chestnut tree, the colours of autumn, an open sky, a blackbird, a heron, a water-vole on the canal.
Sorry to bang on about them, but it’s my family and friends who are always in the forefront of my life, inspiring me, occupying my thoughts and my time, surprising and delighting me. I’m blessed to have them and I’d go through fire for them.
When did you first realise you were a writer?
I’ve already mentioned that I loved to write from before the age of 10. However, realising that I was truly a writer only happened some months, perhaps a year, ago.
That was when I accepted that my writing had improved from being on hubpages, when I saw that others valued me as a writer of some worth. Not until then did I become committed, even addicted, to improving my skills and to using them as a voice to be heard above the parapet.
What's on your bucket-list?
Making the most of the rest of my time on earth.
Seeing all my grandchildren grow up.
Writing a book (published or not).
When agreeing to talk to me, Ann stipulated that I mention how much she values you who are her friends and co-writers on hubpages.
Without you she would not have developed her writing and found the outlet of expression for her views and ideas. A huge ‘thank you’ from her to you.
Copyright annart/AFC 2014
This challenge, set by Jennifer Arnett (availiasvision), is to interview ourselves. You can find it at http://availiasvision.hubpages.com/hub/Interview-Yourself-A-writers-Challenge