By Alison February 21, 2006 5 Comments 12 Min Read


Hell’s bell’s I’ve been tagged by the lovely Mimi.

This is I’m sure going to reveal all kinds of thing’s you didn’t want to know about me, but away we go regardless!

What were the three things you wanted to be when you were growing up?

1. An Air Hostess. Though I had never set foot on a plane, by the time I was eight I had got it into my head that air hostessing was the epitome of poise and glamour, so I spent many a happy afternoon sketching new uniforms for British airways and dreaming of what I would put in my trolley…

2. A Page 3 Girl. I know!!! By the time I was fifteen and quietly assured of my own teenage beauty, I took to thrilling the boys by telling them I wanted to be a Page 3 Girl when I grew up. My Mum was appalled, but little did she know that it was all a guise to gain brownie points with the cool boys, when really I harbored secret ambitions to be a fashion designer…    

3. A Journalist.  Once  I was  at art school, and finally on the path to being a fashion designer, it struck me that   my teachers were steering me away from traditional fashion design (with all the problems fashion illustration entailed for a girl who couldn’t draw hands and feet and faces…) towards the more textural knitwear design degree in Nottingham, which suited me down to the ground because my then boyfriend, came from Nottingham and we were destined to be together, forever and ever and ever. However, by the time he got back from fighting the Gulf war  (a whole other story!), I was right off  him and the idea of Nottingham knitting, mostly because I was a runner up in a prestigious writing competition, and had decided  that life as a  magazine journalist was what I was made for…

So I did a degree in communications and art, then gave it all up to run my own scrumptious little interiors shop and spent the next ten years working in and out of  interior design…

You can relive one day from your childhood, what would it be?

I am six and Helen is four. We are at my Nana’s flat and my Mum’s lovely brother, Roy, is to my eternal wonder, exactly twenty years older than me and to us, the funniest man alive. He comes and goes, and we don’t see much of him,  but when he is back  at  Nana’s, he is a walking children’s entertainer, in his stacked seventies shoes and flares, his eyes glittering as he pulls sweets out of his ears and does magic with a toilet roll holder.

Helen and I are frenzied with excitement. Nana lives on the eleventh floor of a tower block, and we spend every weekend there running up and down the long corridor and counting the strange little bricks on the wallpaper in the toilet.  It is our second home: it’s smells  (steaming hot washing being spun in Nanas old fashioned  top loading machine,  Nana’s old slippers, strange dinners) as familiar to us as our own semi-detached. But this weekend is special: Roy is home and  that means magic and games and fun.

We play hide and seek. Roy hides and we seek.  But this is no ordinary game because Roy is no ordinary man.  Mum’s sister Barbie sit’s precariously on a  sofa that seems to be moving. Helen and I stare, then laugh in delight as Barbie is thrown into the air as Roy dives out from under the sofa cushions on which she was sitting…

I seek, Helen and Roy hide. Coming ready or not! I run in and out of the labryinth of rooms and there is Helen, not hiding at all,but sitting in Nana’s spare room, a strange smile on her face. "Where is he?" I ask, certain she will tell me, because she is four. But not this time. Her face is going blue, trying not to laugh as I hunt Roy all over the flat. And then it strikes me: she hasn’t moved an inch off the suitcase on which she is perched. I pull her off, lift the lid and there he is: my mad uncle curled up in a ball in the suitcase. My crazy, skinny, little Roy.

He hides, we seek. We know where he is because we heard him go into the middle room. We go in and see nothing other than all the old junk Nana keeps in there. Suitcases, boxes, a sofa and a huge old tv.  We look around and then we hear a shuffling. And there he is: Roy’s face pressed against the glass of the old Tv. Roy is in the Tv. Roy is on the Tv!! Oh my Goodness he is on TV. Nana, NANNNNAAAA! Roy is on tele! I laugh till I cry and Helen stands thrilled and bewildered by a man whose imagination knows no bounds…

And still to this day, bless her, she talks about the day our lovely, precious, magic  Roy was on the tele…

You have 2 minutes and a mover with you if
you need heavy lifting help, to grab 5 things from your home before it
morphs into a polka dotted hobgoblin and hops away. What will you take.
(Food/drink/family/friends excluded)…

My girl. She was the the first thing I bought for my shop and nobody
else loved her as much as I did, so I brought her home. Unfortunately,
when we had a cat, Tuna, she used to like to prowl along the windowsill
and one day possessed by some kind of crazy feline madness, she set
herself the challenge of squeezing behind my beloved bust and knocked
her down, smashing her eye, and leaving her a little worse for wear.
I was fuming, but now I think that little bash adds to her charm and reminds me daily of  my little mate Tuna…

My yellow journal. Stuffed full of images,  collages, quotes and
recipes, this is the journal that shows me at both my most authentic
and indeed my most prolific. Shortly after Finn was born I lost it for
a while and sunk into deep, deep mourning for the girl I thought it
represented. The girl who wasn’t a Mother. Now those same pages are
layeredwith images from life before and after motherhood and the
journal means more to me than ever.

3. The card my Nana sent me  in the year
before died.  Her tiny perfect old fashioned writing on the back of a
card depicting a vintage Vogue  magazine cover, telling me that life
was more than the temporary joys and fripperies, we, as  teenagers live


4. The first photo of my new born baby boy.
Just looking at it’s fills me with that  strange sense of exhaustion,
elation and other worldliness I felt in the hour after my ceasarean.

5. My button box. A gift from my Nana with my
first sewing machine and tailors dummie when I was thirteen, my button
box is an exquisite oak jewellery box,  lined with old gold silk and
filled to the brim with buttons now twenty years old, that my Nana
chose for me. Alongside the buttons there is now the Victorian locket
Mum and dad bought me when I was eighteen,  a vintage ring Mark saved
up to buy me shortly after we first met, and my baby’s first curl.
Scrap the first four things. This is all I really need: my life’s treasures in a button box…

You have to paint one quote  on your kitchen wall. What would it be?

"Decapitating the spring onions, she made this
mental note: you can tell it’s love, the real thing, when you dream of
slitting his throat." (Wendy Cope.)

What is the one thing you want to accomplish by the end of the year.

I think I want to be pregnant. But before I
get there I need to get over  my fear of being pregnant again,  lose
weight,  persuade Mark that our life won’t come to a complete
standstill and feel that I have  established BrocanteHome to the point
where I can afford to take a little time off with the new baby without
losing all my lovely housekeepers…

You are moving to the moon for one year and can only bring one flower with you. What flower will it be?

You all know how I feel about hyacinths: I
love them not only for their scent, but for their lovely curly promise
of Spring and if I never eat bread again, but have a house full of
hyacinths then you can rest assured that my soul will be forever

You just received word that beside the one flower you can bring 5 books. What books would you bring?

Well if it goes without saying that I am not
going anywhere without Simple Abundance and Romancing The Ordinary,
then the other five books I am taking are designed to satisfy the full
range of emotions one is likely to experience stranded on the moon.

For Comfort: Bridie and Finn by Harry Cauley.

Now sadly out of print, this gentle story has a startling twist that has stayed with me ever after…

For Melancholy: Ladys Maid by Margaret Forster.

You know how occasionally you stumble so deep
into a good writers imagination, that it is a shock when you turn over
the last page? So it is with this wondefully melancholy tale of the the
love affair between Elizabeth Barret and Robert Browning. I insist that you read it and love it as much as I do.

For Hunger: The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater.

So there wouldn’t be much cooking to be done
up there on the moon? Doesn’t matter. The descriptions of the food
created and consumed by Nigel, along with his eloquent turn of phrase
and occasional beautiful tangents make this simply the finest book ever written about  how  we should eat…

For Laughter and Tears: She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb.

Because the writing is astonishing. Because it
will make me laugh. Because it will make me sob. Because the main
character is so complex and so utterly familiar, and because the book is at once extremely challenging and a breeze to read.

To Satisfy My Obsession:  Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendleson.

Every Vintage Housekeeper worth her salt owns a copy of this amazing book. It is technical, friendly and as good a reference on modern day homemaking
as you will ever find. I mean who knows, maybe there ‘ll be a dirty
skirting board or two on the moon, or an alien with a particuarly
challenging stain on his shirt. Like a scout, I do so like to be

And finally for Rapture: Rapture by Susan Minot.

Hold onto your bloomers ladies because this
short book  describes the opposing feelings of a couple during a sexual
act. Rapturous because Minot’s writing  has never  been  quite as exquisite, nor so true as it is in this ultimately heartbreaking little tome…


Oops! Was that six books? Will I have to pay a surcharge??

Goodness this was a marathon post wasn’t it? But oh so fun!

Kerry and Wendy consider yourselves tagged!



  1. Kerry says:

    Well thank you for tagging me miss Alison. I love a challenge … but I'm afraid my post may turn out even longer than yours !!! Do I have a time limit??? Tomorrow … ok?
    Oh … and you'll never get over your fear of being pregnant … or is it fear of the birth. For me, I was always so terrified of the birth … the first time for fear of the unknown … the next two times for fear of the KNOWN!!!

  2. Wendy says:

    I've already done it, sweetie! Oh and I LOVE your selection of books. I bought She's come undone when I was in New York but still to read it, spooky. Oh and Lady's Maid is just fab. I've been trying to get a hold of the autobiography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning by Margaret Forster for ages, must get back on the case!

  3. ms*robyn says:

    one of the best meme answers I have read! and I agree with the rich gypsy – you never get over the fear of pregnancy. I remember me second, being in labour and thinking what the hell am I doing back here? by then it was too late. and now I have ms*louisa – still went back again and ms*sophie is resident on the earth. go for it Alison – I am sure your vintage housekeepers will still be here – get some of us to 'hold fort' for you when you need to take time off.

  4. Paola says:

    The bit about being pregnant struck such a chord with me. I could have written it word for word, just substitute 'mirror mirror' for 'BrocanteHome'…

  5. Johanna says:

    Was Roy always that crazy?
    Love Johanna xoxo

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