I was born in Essex in 1951, although Swansea, South Wales, is where I grew up. The Grange and Glanmor School for Girls were great experiences. The city was quiet. I like it better now than I did then. The countryside of the Gower Peninsula was magnificent, the first site of outstanding natural beauty designated after the war. After I studied German and Russian as an undergraduate at Exeter, I went to Oxford to do more of the same, which made seven years in university. I toyed with becoming an academic but then I got a job with Reuters news agency. I wanted to travel and ‘write’.
I wrote two books for Penguin, The Food and Cooking of Russia and The Food and Cooking of Eastern Europe, when I was still undecided what form that swimming was going to take. Since then I’ve funnelled my travelling, my love of languages, my reading and my Europe into a book of short stories, two novels, two books of travel and reflection, and philosophical biographies of Nietzsche and Freud. All the details are on my website.
My edition of Marinetti’s Futurist Cookbook was a step away from the practical/historical approach I’d taken to food in the earlier books and linked up with my interests in art and philosophy and European history. Penguin are reprinting this now rare and expensive 1989 edition and happily it’s priced at under ten pounds. Scheduled publication date is May 2014, by which time I should have a couple of Futurist Food videos from 1989 up on You Tube. In one I’m at a Futurist Dinner Party wearing pyjamas, in the other it’s the food you’ll see, crafted by me with the help of my friend Maxine Symons.
Two non-fiction books on Russia, Motherland A Philosophical History of Russia and The Philosophy Steamer Lenin and the Exile of the Intelligentsia grew out of interests I’d had for many years.
There’s still so much to say about the Cold War, which was the defining event of my political lifetime. My experience of it was first reflected in In The Communist Mirror, a set of travel essays and reflections from my visits to all the East Bloc countries in the early 1980s. How it felt to be a Westerner encountering the Soviet ‘East’, and vice versa, I tried to convey in a book of short stories, In a Place Like That. As with all my titles see my website for further details.
Anyone’s Game is my latest novel, published last autumn. Adding to my list of non-fiction titles A Shoe Story Van Gogh, The Philosophers and The West comes close on its heels, in May 2014. Jeremy Beale at Harbour Books is my publisher.
I swim and run and ride horses: that’s the legacy of growing up in a wonderful place. I live with my husband in London.