You are a writer, photographer and draw too – quite a ‘polymath’! Tell us how you manage to combine these things…
– It’s lovely to be called a ‘polymath’! It’s interesting actually, because all can be linked together with the common goal of telling a story – so they have more in common than you might expect. Non fiction is still best in ‘story form’, photographs are well known for their ability to tell a story and drawings are about communicating ideas as well. Plus, variety is the spice of life!
Intriguingly you’ve also been a ‘map curator’– what did this involve?
– Firstly, becoming a map curator requires intense dedication to getting the job as there are very few of them. Once you have got into the job it depends on where you work. Some map libraries hold old maps, while others hold maps that are in constant use and are modern. There is an element of conservation included, but a great deal of cataloguing as well as dealing with enquiries. Computers are a vital tool these days. Cataloguing international mapping was surprisingly fascinating and one of my successors went on to work in Stanfords in London. (Another is now the head of the Map Library at the Bodleian in Oxford).
You are part of theTilia Publishing team – what is the inspiration behind the company?
– When I started working for myself in 2004 I named the business ‘Tilia Services’ – Tilia is the Latin name for the genus of Lime trees and a favourite view in childhood was of the massive Lime tree at the bottom of our garden. Plus, (and I think you’ll like this), Lime as a tree and as a wood is pretty much a ‘polymath’ in all the different things that you can do with it!
Your grandfather, Sir Harold Harding, was an amazing man and sat on the tribunal investigating the Aberfan Disaster in 1966, How did he influence you?
– My grandfather had a fabulous sense of humour and time spent with him was always great fun. He was a civil engineer, but loved history and Ronnie Barker. He generously paid for my undergraduate dissertation to be typed (which was just as well as it turned out I couldn’t spell archaeology properly!) and for my successful driving lessons. He taught me that short pithy sentences grab the reader’s attention most successfully, although I’ve still to get fully into that mindset. He and my grandmother hilariously described how they chose their bed, by going around the store bouncing on the edges of all the beds until they found the right one. I published his autobiography as our first book as a way of saying thank you for the richness of the times I spent with him
Finally – tell us about your book ‘Freckles and Friends’ – a great title by the way!
– Freckles and Friends! Oh yes… A few years ago we were serenaded by a young robin we called Freckles after the freckles on his tummy. I would put updates about him and his antics on Facebook for my friends to enjoy. One friend, Jane, suddenly turned to me and said “You know what your next book should be? It should be called ‘Freckles and Friends’ and be about the wildlife in your garden and the young robin Freckles!” At first I wasn’t keen, but then realised that actually there were some funny stories that had happened in our small garden and it could be free of the po-faced veneration that is in a lot of books. Wildlife is rich in its interaction. Just today I was in the garden and a couple of bees plomped onto the path next to me in a clinch, my immediate response was to think of kids on the TV who go ‘Fight Fight!’ It has been so heartening to hear from readers of the book who have been finding the stories in their gardens and their own access to wildlife. That’s what it’s for.
Facebook is @TiliaPublishingUK
Twitter is @TiliaPublishUK